Intellectual Property

A Conflict of Pirates


Conflict of Interest

Last week, The Pirate Bay boys were found guilty of "assisting making available copyrighted content," sentenced to a year in prison, and instructed to pay $3.6 million to various entertainment companies.

The ornery buccaneers were defiant after the decision and promised to continue on their wayward course. Today, a lawyer for one of The Pirate Bay founders is calling for a retrial.

If you've been a little confused about whole ordeal–what with strange terms like BitTorrent, digital piracy, etc.–then you're in luck. The reason The Pirate Bay is demanding a retrial is simple: good ole fashion conflict of interest:

The judge in the Pirate Bay case, Tomas Norström, has been a member of several of the same copyright protection organisations as several of the main entertainment industry representatives, Sveriges Radio's P3 news programme reports….      

Torrentfreak breaks down Norstrom's membership list and nabs some choice quotes, too:

Swedish Association of Copyright (SFU)–The judge Tomas Norström is a member of this discussion forum that holds seminars, debates and releases the Nordic Intellectual Property Law Review. Other members of this outfit? Henrik Pontén (Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), Monique Wadsted (movie industry lawyer) and Peter Danowsky (IFPI)—the latter is also a member of the board of the association.

Swedish Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (SFIR)–The judge Tomas Norström sits on the board of this association that works for stronger copyright laws. Last year they held the Nordic Championships in Intellectual Property Rights Process Strategies.

.SE (The Internet Infrastructure Foundation)–Tomas Norström works for the foundation that oversees the .se name domain and advises on domain name disputes. His colleague at the foundation? Monique Wadsted. Wadsted says she's never met Norström although they have worked together….

"Every time I accept a case I make an assessment on whether I am part of it or not. But I have not felt that I am biased because of those commitments," [Norstrom] said….

Previously one of the original lay judges in the case had to step down when his involvement in a music rights group became known;

"Three lay judges were appointed," said Judge Norström one week before the trial. "On a question from me to the lay judges on whether they had any involvement in copyright associations or similar, or if they are or have been artists one of them answered Yes."

That lay judge was removed. It's anyone's guess why the judge didn't think the same should apply to him.

In related news, Wired is reporting that:

Membership in the Swedish Pirate Party has more than doubled in the wake of last Friday's verdict against The Pirate Bay, dramatically increasing the copyright-reform party's chances of winning a seat in the European Parliament.

Over 22,000 new party members have joined the Pirate Party… The explosion of support has swelled the party's membership from 15,000 on Friday morning to more than 37,000 on Wednesday, according to party officials.

Whole thing here.

Previous Reason coverage of The Pirate Bay here, here, here aaaannnnd here. Copyright and IP issues here.

NEXT: Freedom's Just Another Word for Not Enough Control

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  1. Membership in the Swedish Pirate Party has more than doubled

    Har har har. That’s too stupid not to be true.

  2. Why oh why oh why isn’t it named the Swedish Pirate PARRRRRRRRRRty?

  3. ed,

    Your fear is misplaced in that you seem to have no fear of the repercussions. They’ll be a voting block soon. Large and in charge, piracy will become a national past time. In time, Ragnar Danneskjold will ravage our shores with his mighty fleet of Swedish bucaneers.

  4. Warty,

    You forgot the ‘tay’ at the end.

    No soup for you! Come back, one year!

  5. Arrrgggggggh!
    Avast ye scurvy dogs!
    Your IP paradigm is about to go belly up!
    Free information is booty for all.

  6. My only regret is not downloading more torrents when the Bay was oeprational and I could get movies @ 10mb/sec. Damn, the pirate bay was so easy, good, and awesome. Fortunately pirates are unstoppable.

    pirate + rpg = dead to navy sniper
    pirate + internet = INVINCIBLE

  7. phalkor,
    The Bay was a good one stop mega store. But there’s still plenty O’ places to find whatever you’re looking for. It’s just not all under one roof.

  8. Because you can do it doesn’t make it ethical.
    But if it makes you feel better, be content with that rationalization.

  9. Isn’t the Bay still up and running?

  10. phalkor>

    What do you mean by “when the Bay was”. It is still up. And will be. Forevarrr.

  11. Theft is sexy, kids.
    Steal all the movies you want.
    Except mine.

  12. Yay! I was hoping we could start another thread so that everybody can further confuse the enforcement of copyright infringement with the various efforts by trade groups to shut down competing distribution outlets.

  13. Arrr. Vote Pirate party on June 7! (at least if you’re in Sweden or Germany, did they get enough signatures anywhere else?)

  14. I’m a little confused about why this is a conflict.

    To Americanize the question for a moment, isn’t saying that a judge who belongs to a group that studies copyright law shouldn’t be allowed to sit on copyright cases a lot like saying that a judge who belongs to a group that studies constitutional law shouldn’t be allowed to judge constitutional cases?

  15. Fluffster,

    Based on what I read above, SFU appears to be a study group, not an advocacy group, so his membership there wouldn’t trigger a recusal (self-disqualification) under US rules. However, Tomas Norstr?m sits on the board of [SFIR] that works for stronger copyright laws. Membership in an advocacy/lobbying group like that would trigger a recusal under US rules; if he were a US judge he probably wouldn’t be a member of a lobbying group. IANAL, etc…

  16. if he were a US judge he probably wouldn’t be a member of a lobbying group. IANAL, etc…

    Judicial ethics rules in the USA are pretty clear about judges not getting involved in such things. I wonder why the Pirate Bay defendants didn’t bring this up before the trial? Not that I know Swedish procedural rules or anything. But under U.S. rules, they might be barred from raising such a motion following the trial, so long as the judge’s alleged conflict was discoverable beforehand.

  17. “competing distribution outlets”

    i.e. theft sites.
    Nice euphemism, lamar.
    I’m considering such a distribution outlet to steal your car, if you own one.

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