"The Court reiterated that Article 10 guaranteed the right for everyone to receive and disseminate information on the Internet. Although the aim pursued by Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi [fellow Pirate Bay co-founder] was profit-making, their involvement in a website facilitating the exchange of copyright-protected material was covered by the right under Article 10 to “receive and impart information”. As a result, their conviction had interfered with their right to freedom of expression.
However, since the shared material in respect of which Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi had been convicted was protected under the Copyright Act, the Court held that the interference of the Swedish authorities had been prescribed by law. It also considered that the conviction of Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi had pursued the legitimate aim of protecting copyright. Finally, the Court had to balance two competing interests which were both protected by the Convention – i.e. the right of Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi to facilitate the exchange of information on the Internet and that of the copyright-holders to be protected against copyright infringement.
The Court reiterated that the Swedish authorities had a wide margin of appreciation to decide on such matters – especially since the information at stake was not given the same level of protection as political expression and debate – and that their obligation to protect copyright under both the Copyright Act and the Convention had constituted a weighty reason for the restriction of the applicants’ freedom of expression. Moreover, considering that Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi had not removed the copyright- protected material from their website despite having been requested to do so, the prison sentence and award of damages could not be regarded as disproportionate.
Beatrice and her friends had never thought
of freedom to receive and disseminate
information as involving anything
but gossip exchange over a cup of tea
Therefore, the Court concluded that the interference with the right to freedom of expression of Mr Neij and Mr Sunde Kolmisoppi had been necessary in a democratic society and that their application had therefore to be rejected as manifestly ill-founded."