Chapter 8 Case Study


Why did TPB believe it was not violating copyright laws? What did the Swedish court rule?

TPB claims it is merely a search engine providing pointers to existing P2P networks that it does not itself control. It says that it cannot control what content users ultimately find on those P2P networks, and that it is no different from any other search engine, such as Google or Bing, which are not held responsible for the content found on sites listed in search results. From a broader standpoint, TPB’s founders also claim that copyright laws in general unjustly interfere with the free flow of information on the Internet, and that in any event, they were not violating Swedish copyright law, which they felt should be the only law that applied. And they further claimed they did not encourage, incite, or enable illegal downloading.


The First Swedish Court in Stockholm declared TPB’s four founders guilty of violating Swedish copyright law, and sentenced each to one year in prison and payment of $3.5 million in restitution to the plaintiffs, all Swedish divisions of the major record firms (Warner Music, Sony, and EMI Group among them). The court found that the defendants had incited copyright infringement by providing a Web site with search functions, easy uploading and storage possibilities, and a tracker. The court also said that the four defendants had been aware of the fact that copyrighted material was shared with the help of their site and that the defendants were engaged in a commercial enterprise, the basis of which was encouraging visitors to violate the copyrights of owners. In fact, the primary purpose of TPB was to violate copyrights in order to make money for the owners (commercial intent).

How has TPB managed to continue operating despite being found in violation of copyright laws?

TPB has appealed the court judgment, has not paid any fine, and its founders have only just begun to serve jail sentences. It has moved its servers into caves in Sweden and dispersed multiple copies of its program to other countries. Although it has been hounded by lawsuits, police raids, and confiscation of servers in various countries, as well has having its top-level domains shut down in Sweden and other countries, it has for the time being found a safe haven on the Caribbean island Saint Maarten.

How has the music industry reacted to the problems created by pirates like TBP?

The music industry has reacted by suing companies and individuals who it believes are involved in piracy, and encouraging strong government enforcement of copyright laws. In addition, the music industry has had to drastically change its business model and decisively move towards digital distribution platforms. They have made striking progress, and sales of music in a purely digital format now account for more revenue than sales of music in a physical format. To achieve this, the music industry employed a number of different business models and online delivery platforms, including Apple’s iTunes pay-per-download model, subscription models, streaming models and now music in the cloud.