Swedish File-Sharing Trial Thrown Into Uproar

A lawyer defending four men behind The Pirate Bay file-sharing Internet site said Tuesday that the prosecution is planning to drop some of the charges in the Swedish case.

Prosecutor Hakan Roswall will drop charges Wednesday related to "accessory in the production" of copyright-protected material, defense lawyer Per E. Samuelsson said.

Instead, the prosecutor will focus on "assisting in making available" copyright material, Samuelsson said.

The reason for the decision was not immediately clear.

"It's as if half the prosecution has gone up in smoke," Samuelsson said. He called the decision "sensational."

[The BBC and the Times of London reported that the prosecution dropped many charges Tuesday.]

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Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, 28, Peter Sunde, 30, Fredrik Neij, 30, and Carl Lundstrom, 48, say they have done nothing illegal because The Pirate Bay does not host copyrighted material.

Instead, it directs users to find other file sharers with whom they connect through so-called torrent files to download content.

The defendants will still stand accused of breaking Swedish copyright law by helping Internet users download protected music, movies and computer games for free. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison.

They are also facing 120 million kronor ($14.3 million) in claims for compensation and damages from music and movie companies including Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., MGM Pictures Inc., Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., 20th Century Fox Films Co., Sony BMG, Universal and EMI.

The case focuses on dozens of works the prosecutor claims were downloaded illegally, including music by the Beatles, Robbie Williams and Coldplay and movies such as "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and season one of the TV show "Prison Break."

Three of the defendants administer the site, while Lundstrom helped finance it.

The case stems from May 31, 2006, when police raided 10 locations in central Sweden, seizing servers and computer equipment and temporarily shutting down the site.

All four have pleaded innocent in the trial, much awaited by file-sharing enthusiasts and the entertainment industry, which began at the Stockholm District Court on Monday.

With an estimated 22 million users, The Pirate Bay is the biggest site of its kind in the world, and comparable to file-sharing sites such as Grokster and Kazaa, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.