No one can accuse Peter Sunde and Fredrik Neij, co-founders of The Pirate Bay, of giving up easily. After their convictions had been upheld, twice – by a Swedish appeals court, and the Supreme Court – they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. But that Court has also upheld the convictions, concluding that they can’t be overturned on free speech grounds.
“In conclusion, having regard to all the circumstances of the present case, in particular the nature of the information contained in the shared material and the weighty reasons for the interference with the applicants’ freedom of expression, the Court finds that the interference was ‘necessary in a democratic society’ within the meaning of Article 10 § 2 of the Convention. It follows that the application must be rejected as manifestly ill-founded, in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3(a) and 4 of the Convention.”
(You can download the full decision as a pdf here)
Ever the optimist, Sunde told Torrentfreak that, still, not all doors are closed. But considering that the Court’s decision is “final and not subject to any appeal to either the Court or any other body”, we’d be curious where those open doors are.
Perhaps the two men are now pondering if their latest appeal was such a good idea. After all, as Swedish blogger Karl Dahlstrand pointed out:
“Sometimes it’s better not to know. Then you can continue living with a sense of being wronged – that your circumstances are due to provincial stupidity or ignorance.”
The ensuing feeling of being a victim, he adds, can thus give you a sense of purpose and status.
There have been signs of a decline in the “pirate movement” for some time. Its popularity appeared to have reached a peak back in 2009, during the initial Pirate Bay court case in Sweden. The recently released documentary about the trial, TPB AFK, showed a crowd of young people demonstrating outside the court during this trial, and the defendants doing press conferences that resembled those of rockstars.
But when the case went to the appeals court, the following year, it appeared many of their supporters had moved on. There was no media frenzy, no demonstrations – and no “pirate bus“.
The fate of the Swedish Pirate party largely mirrored that of the Pirate Bay defendants. In the wake of the initial TPB conviction, the party gained two seats in the European Parliament, after winning 7.1% of the vote. But in the country’s general election the following year it only received 0.63% of the vote – finishing in tenth place, behind the extreme right wing Swedish Democrats (which sadly gained as much as 5.7% of the vote) and the Feminist Initiative party (0.68%).
Even in Germany, where the Pirate Party gained seats in Berlin’s state parliament in 2011, the party is showing signs of falling apart due to internal chaos and bickering, according to Spiegel Online.
Because the court recognized that copyright was protected under both the Swedish copyright law and the European Convention on Human Rights, the court ruled that the Convention required balancing the human rights of artists over any other rights of the defendants. This ruling is yet another blow to the Pirate Party’s raison d’être.