2006-06-20

Sanction threat behind file sharing raid

This just came in from news program Rapport on Swedish National Television:

The US threatened Sweden with trade sanctions within the frameworks of the World Trade Organisation, if Sweden did not stop file sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay.

On May 31 a large number of police raided the file sharing network on around ten spots in the country. Three of the prime suspects were arrested and a number of servers were confiscated.

Already from the beginning, Rapport showed that the raid was done after pressures from the US government. Justice Minister Thomas Bodström have consequently denied that he has pressured police to act against the Pirate Bay.

State Secretary Dan Eliasson, closest co-worker and confident of Bodström, denied already on the day after the raid that the White House had contacted the Swedish Government on the Pirate Bay at all.

Documents presented by Swedish Television today shows that Dan Eliasson has been deeply involved in this particular matter. The documents also confirm that the US has pressured the Swedish government to act against the Pirate Bay.

In March, Eliasson received a letter from John G Malcolm, chairman for the mighty Hollywood lobby group MPA.

In the letter, Malcolm reminded about a meeting he and Eliasson had in October, 2005, to discus the file sharing problem. Malcolm expressed concerns that "Sweden has become a haven for international piracy".

Malcolm also reminded that the American embassy had repeatedly "asked the Swedish government to act against the Pirate Bay" and finally asked Eliasson to "exercise his influence to urge law enforcement authorities in Sweden to take much-needed action against The Pirate Bay".

On April 10th, Eliasson sent a reply to MPA and John G Malcolm. In the letter, Eliasson explained about the government giving prosecutors and police the task of sharpening the struggle against copyright infringement and that the government expected immediate results.

Eliasson also wrote that he would follow the actions of the Swedish police against file sharers closely and that he, if need be, would not doubt to take actions to raise the efficiency.

Sometime this spring, Eliasson called chief prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem to a meeting about file sharing. During the meeting not only file sharing in general was discussed, but also the particular case of the Pirate Bay.

- Dan Eliasson was interested in the process (with the Pirate Bay), how the land laid in Sweden, chief prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem says.

The Pirate Bay was a big thing in the ministry, not only on white-collar level.

- Well, the Pirate Bay was the big case that existed on area of copyright and it was this case that had resulted, as I understand it, in the contacts from the US where they expressed concerns over the situation, says Sven-Erik Alhem.

Was Thomas Bodström also aware of these things?

- Well, I don't know that. But I assume that was the case.

Alhem brought up the Pirate Bay process to discussion with the Prosecutor General, Fredrik Wersäll. After the meeting, prosecutor Håkan Roswall, who had earlier investigated the Pirate Bay without result, were informed that copyright infringements were the new priority. The Pirate Bay suddenly ends up on the top in the pile of cases.

On April 7, Roswall is called up to the Ministry of Justice where two employees close to State Secretary Dan Eliasson explains to him what is really on the line.

- In this context it was mentioned things about black listings within the framework of the WTO and such, that such threats had been conveyed from the American government to the Swedish government, Håkan Roswall tells Rapport.

The ministry employees that gave these informations knew that Roswall were handling the Pirate Bay investigation, but claimed that the meeting was not an attempt to put any pressure on Roswall. He was told that the information he received were not to concider instructions.

- It was minutely pointed out that I under no circumstances should understand the information I received as any form of instructions of what to do or not to do, says Håkan Roswall.

One and a half month later, on May 31, prosecutor Håkan Roswall orders the raid on the Pirate Bay.

And today, state secretary Dan Eliasson confirms to Rapport the information that Sweden has been threatened with trade sanctions.

- I know that the US have opinions about the effectivity of our system when it comes to copyright. And if Sweden and other countries did not follow their international undertakings there are sanction mechanisms in the US, I know this. And it has been pointed out from the US side.

Has the Minister of Justice been informed that you and your employees in repeated contacts have discussed the particular and ongoing Pirate Bay case with officials as well as lobby organisations?

- Yes, he has received general information that there is criticism against the Pirate Bay and that police is working on the case.

So let us sum up what has actually happened:

The powerful movie lobby with the MPAA in the front line has pressured the American government to do something about the Pirate Bay. The American government has, in turn, threatened Sweden with trade sanctions if things were not done. Due to these threats, prosecutors sent out a large police force to confiscate all servers that used the same ISP as did the Pirate Bay. This includes, among others, political organisations and even a chechen news agency that can't work from inside Russia, for obvious reasons.

When Bodström tells Swedish media that he has in no way been involved in this scandal, he must have been lying. He expects us to believe that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have received trade sanction threats from the US, and that the Swedish justice system, which is under his command as he is the head of the Ministry of Justice, have acted on these threats, and that he himself have never been informed or involved in this process in any way.

Of course, this is extremely improbable, yes, I would even say that this is impossible. The only alternative would be that either the Ministry of Foreign affairs would have controlled the prosecution and police directly, which is even more impossible and improbable, or that Swedish police and prosecutors acted politically without him noticing and that the government doesn't tell each other of things that are as serious as trade sanction threats from the worlds only super power.

So, the only reasonable chain of events is that the Ministry of Foreign affairs have passed the ball over to the Ministry of Justice, since police and prosecutors sort under them. Then they must have given a green light, or an order, to execute the raid.

In no way, what so ever, can the Justice Minister, being the executive boss of the Ministry of Justice, have been unaware of this chain of events. If he were, he has shown extreme negligence and can hardly remain in office after this.

But if he knew, he either gave the green light, or did not stop this from happening. In any case, a Swedish minister has been involved, through direct actions or through negligence, in a ministry directly making themselves involved in one of the most serious abuses of power in Swedish history - by order from a foreign state.

And then lied about it on national television.

This is an excerpt of what John G. Malcolm from MPAA writes to Swedish state secretary Dan Eliasson on March 17, 2006:

Clearly the complaints that we filed on behalf of our members in 2004 and 2005 with the police in Stockholm and Gothenburg against the operators of The Pirate Bay have resulted in no action. As I am sure you are aware, the American Embassy has sent entreaties to the Swedish government urging it to take action against The Pirate Bay and other organizations operating within Sweden that facilitate copyright theft. As we discussed during our meeting, it is certainly not in Sweden's interest to earn a reputation among nations and trading partners as a place where utter lawlessness with respect to intellectual property rights is tolerated. I would earn you once again to exercise your influence to urge law inforcement authorities in Sweden to take much-need action against Pirate Bay.
Source

And here is an excerpt of the answer:

I can [...] assure you that I follow closely the actions taken by the police and the prosecutors in respect of copyright infringements on the Internet and I will not, if necessary, hesitate to initiate further measures to improve their effectiveness.
Source

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