Swedish Police Make Arrests in Raids on Torrent Sites

pirate bay
Pirate Bay's first server is displayed at the Technical Museum in Stockholm April 16, 2009. Jessica Gow/Reuters

Swedish police are cracking down on illegal internet torrent sites and have arrested five people under suspicion of copyright-related offences.

This news comes two weeks after BitTorrent search engine, The Pirate Bay, reappeared following a police raid which forced the site offline in December 2014.

An investigation into The Pirate Bay and its former operator Fredrik Neij is underway.

A spokesperson for Rights Alliance, a Swedish organisation that tackles internet crime, confirmed the sites now offline are Tankafetast, Sweden's second largest torrent site, Tankafetast Play and The Pirate Hub.

Prior to the seizure, Rights Alliance gathered information about these sites and filed a police complaint. The spokesperson told Newsweek she is pleased with the action the police and prosecution service have taken.

"The problem is very serious in the Nordic region and especially Sweden," the spokesperson says. "There are 111 million illegally streamed and 109 million illegally downloaded television programmes and movies each year in Sweden.

"The illegal market is bigger than the legal one. The illegal services harm the digital market and restrain the development for legal movie and television services."

The spokesperson stressed that Rights Alliance are continuously working to close down illegal services, with the aim of establishing a fair environment.

"These sites are getting more and more commercialised, earning huge amounts from advertisements and donations. Since they are not paying anything back to the creators and rights holders, everything goes straight into their own pockets.

"There are still a handful of illegal streaming sites in Sweden, like Swefilmer. We will now work even harder to close them down as well."

Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said the sites have been disabled by their operators, not the police, in order to "prevent further crime".

Meanwhile, co-founder and ex-spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, says he believes the police should be focussing on "real crimes" and not pandering to the will of the USA.

"Most of these raids are not due to actual crimes committed, but due to pressure from the USA that trade sanctions against Sweden will occur if they do not take action," he says.

"Sweden is a big player in the entertainment industry, which makes file sharing a threat to the Swedish economy, not because it constitutes a crime, but because it jeopardises the trade agreements between the countries."

Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi says he was "sad" to see The Pirate Bay return two weeks ago, as he believes it is now in "a worse shape" than it was before.

"I've been really open that I wanted The Pirate Bay to shut down years ago, and the original plan was to shut it down on the tenth birthday," he says.

"The site has outlived itself and should shut down in order for new sites to emerge, and hopefully sites less focused on advertisements and porn.

"The sites that shut down recently are small and not that important for the general public. I hope they re-emerge in order for a more diverse ecosystem of file sharing systems."

Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Greens and European Free Alliance, says she feels file sharing sites exist in the first place due to the film and music industries being "unwilling or unable" to provide or collaborate with adequate distribution platforms.

"For many people, file sharing may be the only way to access certain media like foreign television series," she says.

"Studies have shown that, in general, heavy users of file sharing are the ones generally spending the most money, not the least, on cultural works, and that there is no proof for an overall negative effect on sales. In fact, the big labels have recently even increased their profit margins, as they finally started to embrace digital distribution."

She believes the industry is putting pressure on governments to crack down on file sharing, but that this is the wrong focus, and police crackdowns will not result in any lasting effect.

"The industry should focus on providing convenient, widely-accessible distribution services, and legislators must ensure that the legal framework doesn't obstruct them, like today's fragmented European copyright law does," she says.

"Criminalising fans and shutting down peer-to-peer exchanges will get us nowhere. While I don't support infringement driven by a profit motive, platforms that allow file sharing between individuals must remain open, since they are used for many beneficial purposes, from providing software updates to sharing free culture.

"If the burden of policing users' behaviour on such platforms becomes too great, only large-scale commercial platforms can survive."