American threats linked to raid of Swedish file-sharing site

US prods Scandanavian country over music piracy

The US government has pressured Sweden with the threat of trade sanctions to act against websites that support music piracy.

That's the impression Swedish district prosecutor Håkan Roswall came away with after he was summoned to Sweden's Justice Department on April 7 to be briefed on the matter.

"I was then made to understand that threats of blacklisting in the context of the World Trade Organisation had been directed from the American government to the Swedish government," Roswall said in an interview with Swedish television news program Rapport.

Less than two months later, Swedish file-sharing site The Pirate Bay was raided by the police.

Sweden's undersecretary of state, Dan Eliasson, told Rapport that the US had made comments regarding the efficiency of its system in protecting copyrights, and had suggested that the US could use trade sanctions against countries that don't meet international commitments.

The Pirate Bay had clearly been the target of US criticism. Earlier this spring, Prosecution Authority Director Sven-Erik Alhem was summoned to the Cabinet Offices to discuss internet piracy. Aside from a general discussion of the topic, the handling of The Pirate Bay was obviously the main issue, he says.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has targeted The Pirate Bay. In a letter to the Swedish government that was obtained by a Swedish television news network and published on the web, MPAA Chairman John Malcolm wrote that although The Pirate Bay was reported to the police in Stockholm and Göteborg in 2004 and 2005, nothing came out of it. Malcolm also mentioned letters written from the US embassy in Stockholm to the Swedish government requesting that action be taken.

The Swedish government has been trying to step up its battle against copyright infringement. The National Police Board and the Prosecutor's Office have been instructed by the government to investigate how to prevent copyright infringement on the internet, and recently presented their proposals.

However, Eliasson and Roswell denied that the Cabinet pressed for action against The Pirate Bay. Such a move would have been potentially scandalous, since the Swedish constitution prohibits cabinet ministers and officials from instructing government agencies on how to act in specific cases.

"It was very clearly stated that I was absolutely not to interpret the information given to me as in any way instructing me on what to do, or not to do, Roswall says, according to Rapport.

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