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While the U.S. Navy was shooting it out with pirates on the High Seas this weekend, prosecutors in Sweden, along with the movie and music companies were heading into the last week of their showdown with The Pirate Bay. A verdict in the most closely watched file-sharing case since Napster is due this week. If convicted, the four defendants who created and maintain the popular BitTorrent index site could face up to two years in jail each and civil damages of up to $14 million. The verdict will be decided by a four-judge panel.
The trial was largely a PR disaster for prosecutors and lawyers for the music and movie companies. Prosecutors were forced to drop half their case before the first witness was called while their questioning of the defendants on the stand devolved into a strange, Dada-esque void. Still, many Swedish legal experts say convictions are more likely than not, despite the side-show atmosphere.
However the verdict comes out, though, the file-sharing landscape is already changing in Sweden. A tough new copyright law that took effect April 1, which gives copyright owners the authority to demand the identities behind IP addresses suspected of being used for file-trading, brought an immediate 30% dip in Internet traffic in the country. Sweden has also seen a boom in legal Internet downloading, with sales increasing 20% to 30% at InProdicon, which provides about half the music downloads in Sweden through various service providers.
On the other hand, demand has also surged for services that provide for anonymous Web surfing. The Pirate Bay now has over 100,000 users for its recently introduced VPN service, which shields users' identities.