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Pirate Bay fileshare four guilty

 Pirate Bay co-founders Fredrik Neij (L), Gottfrid Svartholm (C) and Peter Sunde leave the city court after the last day of argument
Pirate Bay co-founders Fredrik Neij (L), Gottfrid Svartholm (C) and Peter Sunde leave the city court after the last day of argument's in their copyright trial in Stockholm, March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong
— image credit: Reuters

By Veronica Ek

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish court handed down a guilty verdict and a year in prison on Friday to all four defendants in a copyright test case involving The Pirate Bay, one of the world's biggest free file-sharing websites.

The verdict could be a step toward helping music and film companies seeking to recoup millions of dollars in lost revenues from filesharers, though analysts said they doubted it would stem the tide of illegal downloading.

"The Stockholm district court has today found guilty the four individuals that were charged with accessory to breaching copyright laws," the court said in a statement. "The court has sentenced each of them to one year in prison."

Companies including Warner Bros., MGM, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI were also asking for damages of more than 100 million crowns ($12 million) to cover lost revenues.

The court also ordered the defendants to pay just over 30 million Swedish crowns ($3.58 million).

The men linked to The Pirate Bay -- Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom -- were charged early last year by a Swedish prosecutor with conspiracy to break copyright law and related offences.

The accused had denied the charges.

APPEAL

Lundstrom's attorney Per Samuelson told journalists he was shocked by the guilty verdict and the severity of the sentence.

"That's outrageous, in my point of view. Of course we will appeal," he said. "This is the first word, not the last. The last word will be ours."

The group that controls The Pirate Bay, launched in 2003, has maintained that since no copyrighted material is stored on its servers and no exchange of files actually takes place there, they cannot be held responsible for what material is being exchanged.

The prosecution has said that by financing, programing and administering the site, the four men promoted the infringement of property rights by the site's users.

Industry specialists were not convinced the verdict would have a lasting effect.

"Every time you get rid of one, another bigger one pops up. Napster went, and then up came a whole host of others ... The problem of file-sharing just keeps growing year on year, and it's increasingly difficult for the industry to do anything about it," said music analyst Mark Mulligan of research firm Forrester.

Dan Cryan, senior analyst at media research firm Screen Digest, said the lack of international copyright law meant websites dedicated to illegal downloads could simply move on to a new country if legislation tightened where they operated.

"Pirate Bay was brilliant at self-publicity, but the reality is there are lots of other torrent-tracker sites," he said.

"The closing of the one that shouts the loudest won't make any difference."

(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm and Georgina Prodhan in London; Writing by Niklas Pollard, editing by Will Waterman)

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