Swedish prosecutor charges file-sharing site Pirate Bay offers illegal copies of music, films

STOCKHOLM, Sweden " A Swedish prosecutor filed charges Thursday against the organizers of popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, saying it has helped millions of users worldwide violate copyrights.

The Pirate Bay, started in 2004, allows 10 million to 15 million users share films, music and other copyright-protected material.

In charges that included top Hollywood production houses as plaintiffs, prosecutor Hakan Roswall focused on four men he said were responsible for the organization, financing and operation of the site.

"The operation of The Pirate Bay is financed through advertising revenues. In that way it commercially exploits copyright-protected work and performances," Roswall said in a statement.

The prosecutor listed dozens of works that had been downloaded through The Pirate Bay, including The Beatles album "Let It Be," Robin Williams' "Intensive Care" and the movie "Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire."

Plaintiffs in the case include Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., MGM Pictures Inc., Colombia Pictures Industries Inc., 20th Century Fox Films Co., Sony BMG, Universal and EMI, who have until Feb. 29 to file claims for damages.

The case stems from a May 2006 crackdown on illegal file-sharing that temporarily shut down the site. The four suspects, three from Sweden and one from Finland, were charged with both accessory and conspiracy to break Swedish copyright law. If convicted, they would face a maximum of two years in prison.

Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde, who was among those charged, told The Associated Press earlier this week that the charges would not affect the site.

"We're not doing anything illegal," Sunde said.

The Pirate Bay posted a defiant message as the charges were filed at the Stockholm district court.

"In case we lose the pending trial (yeah, right) there will still not be any changes to the site. The Pirate Bay will keep operating just as always," the posting said.

In addition to Sunde, 29, from Finland, the others charged were Fredrik Neij, 29; Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, 23; and Carl Lundstrom, 47.

Lawyer Peter Danowsky, who represents some of the plaintiffs through the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said they plan to demand damages of "several million" Swedish kronor.

Police seized servers and computer equipment in a May 31, 2006, raid at 10 different locations in central Sweden that was applauded by the Motion Picture Association of America, which claims movie studios have lost billions of dollars due to piracy.

Roswall said the evidence in the case included witness testimony, e-mails sent and received by the suspects and invoices sent to advertisers. One e-mail suggested The Pirate Bay had a yearly revenue of about $3 million.

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