A court in Stockholm has today ruled against the four operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, saying they are guilty of contributing to copyright infringement and sentencing each to one year in prison. Copyright holders in the film and music industry cheered the decision.

The defendants — Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom — have also been ordered to pay $3.5m (30m Swedish kronor) in damages.

Pirate Bay is one of the biggest file-sharing websites with about 22m users running BitTorrent software to swap content such as music, games, and films.

The plaintiffs, Warner Bros, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Sony BMG and Universal, had sought damages of about $14m to cover lost revenues. 

The defendants said they planned to appeal the ruling and take it as far as the Swedish Supreme Court. Sunde said in an online video statement: “We can’t pay and we wouldn’t pay.”  

Swedish police first raided The Pirate Bay offices in May 2006 and seized servers for examination. The individuals were charged with contributing to copyright infringement in January 2008.

The defendants had argued that they didn’t host any illegal files on their servers, instead just linking users to stored content on each other’s computers. The court said in its decision that the site had been run “commercially and in an organised manner”. The court didn’t rule that the site must be shut down.

A spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association (MPA) said: “This important decision confirms that Sweden’s laws do protect creative works and apply online. We now look to the Swedish authorities to end this criminal enterprise. This is an important decision for rights-holders, underlining their right to have their creative works protected against illegal exploitation and to be fairly rewarded for their endeavours.  This decision will help to support the continued investment in talent and in new online services (both locally and internationally), and the creation of new films and television shows for enjoyment by audiences around the world.”

Johan Holmer of the Swedish Producers’ Association added: “Illegal file-sharing is one of the main obstacles to a positive development for Swedish film production.”