Four men linked to the popular Pirate Bay file-sharing site were jailed today after being convicted of breaking copyright law.
A Swedish court sentenced Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundstrom to one year each in prison.
They were also ordered to pay €3m damages to a series of entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Sony, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
The Pirate Bay provides a forum for its estimated 22 million users to freely download music, films and computer games.
The site has become the entertainment industry's main enemy after successful court actions against file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa.
Defence lawyers had argued the men should be acquitted because The Pirate Bay does not host any copyright-protected material. Instead, it provides a forum for its users to download content through so-called torrent files. The technology allows users to transfer parts of a large file from several different users, increasing download speeds.
The court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations "by providing a website with ... sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the website."
The case renewed debate about file-sharing in Sweden, where many defend the right to swap songs and films freely on the internet. Critics say that Swedish authorities caved in to pressure from the US when they launched the crackdown on The Pirate Bay in 2006.
The Pirate Bay's supporters set up a website dedicated to the trial, and the defendants sent updates from the court hearings through social network Twitter.
The defendants said before the verdict that they would appeal if they were found guilty.