Swefilmer Piracy Trial Ends, Operators Face Years in Jail
The trial of the operators of defunct streaming site Swefilmer ended this week with the prosecutor likening the operation to organized crime and seeking lengthy custodial sentences for the men involved. On top, they face potential damages of more than $1m.
Founded more than five years ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was once said to have accounted for 25% of all web TV viewing in Sweden.
In 2015, a 22-year-old Swefilmer operator revealed he’d been raided and in 2016 a Turkish national was arrested in Germany on a secret European arrest warrant. The now 26-year-old was accused of receiving donations from users and setting up Swefilmer’s deals with advertisers.
The pair appeared at the Varberg District Court in January, accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.
After a few weeks’ suspension, the case got back underway this month, when details of the investigation into the site were revealed to the Court.
This week the trial concluded with prosecutor Anna Ginner describing the Swefilmer streaming operation as being like “organized crime”, while demanding a 4.5-year prison sentence for the 26-year-old alongside damages of more than $1.5m.
“I say this bears the traits of organized crime. A crime that has drawn in a lot of big money,” said Ginner via video link.
“The aim was to provide all visitors of the website Swefilmer an opportunity to see movies for free. The website even placed advertising to encourage more visitors,” she said.
“The effect of the business has been that thousands of users have done just that, instead of paying for the Swedish film companies. This has damaged the film studios.”
According to local media, the 26-year-old’s lawyer dismissed the prosecution’s claims as “fantasy”, noting that it’s not clear that his client committed any crimes at all.
That assertion wasn’t shared by lawyer Henrik Pontén of RightsAlliance.
“We must not forget that it is only a small part of the money that we have been able to find. There is a large amount of money that has been lost somewhere in the world,” Pontén said.
The prosecution considers the 26-year-old to be the main player behind the site, with the 22-year-old playing a much smaller role. He stands accused of receiving around $4,000 of the proceeds but according to his lawyer Claes Kennedy, no crime was committed, since at the time it had not been established by the EU court that linking to pirated content was illegal.
Nevertheless, the prosecution wants the site’s former administrator to receive a year in jail but may settle for a suspended sentence plus community service, a point on which his lawyer agrees.
For his part, Henrik Pontén hopes the punishments are closer to the top of the scale as a deterrent to others.
“Foreign criminals are attracted to Sweden for the opportunity to earn serious money and receive low penalty rates,” he told Hallands Nyheter.
The district court’s decision is due mid-May.