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NB: cross-posted. Apologies to the those who see it twice.

On Friday, an European court found the founders of the Bit Torrent tracker and server, Pirate Bay, "guilty of promoting copyright infringement". The four have been sentenced to 1 year in prison each, and have also been order to pay damages of 30 million kronor.

Opponents of the decision are arguing that the founders, who are also responsible for running and maintaining the site, are not responsible for the material that users upload, as none of the files are hosted at the site. But let's leave that aside for the moment and look at the wider implications, the largest of which is, what about Google?

With 22 million users, the Pirate Bay may be the biggest torrent tracker, but far more people are probably using Google as their torrent search engine. After the latest X-men movie? All you have to do is type in "wolverine torrent" and you'll pull up hundreds of links to torrent index files hosted on TPB and its wannabes, many found on lesser-known sites.

What would happen if Google is targeted next? Well, unlike TPB, which actually has a "legal" page where they upload infringement notices received by email, and responses which are extremely derogatory more often than not, Google maintains that they follow processes to remove links to copyright material if and when they receive a notice about the offending link. Unfortunately for copyright holders, it is unlikely to ever be effective. It would also be exceedingly stupid to sue Google because the uproar would be insane, not to mention that it is used for many more legal purposes.

Personally, I think the verdict of "guilty of promoting copyright infringement" is probably correct, especially in light of that "legal" page. Some of the replies chatise the companies for assuming that Sweden operates under the same laws as the US. Well, given that Sweden is a signatory of the Berne Convention, copying copyrighted material is illegal there too. 

Article 14:

(1) Authors of literary or artistic works shall have the exclusive right of authorizing:

(i) the cinematographic adaptation and reproduction of these works, and the distribution of the works thus adapted or reproduced;

(ii) the public performance and communication to the public by wire of the works thus adapted or reproduced.

 
The question is whether being an accessory to copying and distribution, as torrent sites do, is actually illegal. Well, torrent sites often provide the torrent files which enable people to download material. If they only provided links to these files, then I don't think they can be charged, provided of course, they remove those links if asked. But we all know how TPB responded...

What do you all think?

p.s. Other commentary...