Swedish web host PatrikWeb was charged in 2011 for breaking pirating laws, and was finally acquitted in May 2015. PatrikWeb got tied up in the litigation against website owner TTi (also known as The Internationals) when TTi was identified as one of the country’s top pirating websites. A win for all web hosts, PatrikWeb was cleared of any wrongdoing and the convictions went to TTi owners alone. Unfortunately, the legal fees and bad press delivered a hit to PatrikWeb over the years, even though the hosting founders were ultimately not charged. Owners Patrik Lagerman and Joel Larsson saw their nightmare start with a surprise police raid followed by complaints from Antipiratebryan, a Swedish anti-piracy organization.
Antipiratebryan demanded that PatrikWeb take down the website well before any court orders were issued. Accused of copyright infringement, Larsson was charged with copyright infringement and Lagerman was charged with aiding in those efforts. However, the PatrikWeb owners didn’t bend to Antipiratebryan’s orders, only following demands from the police and/or court. Larsson has always maintained that he hosted the torrent site and took money (“donations”) that sustained its maintenance, but he actually had no say when it came to content.
The police raid turned up evidence that PatrikWeb was aware of the blatant copyright infringement on TTi, but did nothing about it. Larsson served 90 hours of community service during the litigation, although he faced up to three months in prison. However, prosecutors didn’t pursue that route. Lagerman served no service or time at all, and even though he didn’t follow any takedown orders, that was dubbed negligent since Antipiratebryan moved forward without any court orders.
According to a member of Antipiratebryan, Sara Lindback, “The person responsible for the illegal service was found guilty. That is the important part in the ruling. The illegal services are causing tremendous damages to the rights holders. Regarding the hosting provider, the court did not find him responsible for copyright infringement. The legal aspects to the responsibility for hosting providers are of course interesting legally. We will analyze the ruling further and see what consequences it can have in the future.”
A Dangerous Precedence
This is far from the first time a web host has been tangled up in such legal proceedings. However, there is still no across-the-board precedence when it comes to rulings in these types of cases. Right after his arrest, Lagerman said, “Trying to prosecute the hosting provider for assisting shows just how stupid they are.” In recent years, the actual website owners of pirating sites haven’t had much luck saying they “didn’t know what users were doing” with their site. In the US, The Pirate Bay owners have all served time in prison, and the war between their site and the legal system still rages on.
However, when it comes to web hosts being found guilty, the verdicts vary. Earlier in 2015, a web host in Russia was found guilty of hosting pirated television programs. In other areas, there have been settlements outside of court, such as the LeaseWeb and Perfect 10 battle. In the US, things are heating up as Google Fiber began sending infringement warnings to users completed with infringement offerings.