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Anatomy of a Career
The MPAA and the RIAA pressured the Bush White House to threaten Sweden with sanctions if they didn't close The Pirate Bay, but why did prosecutor Håkan Roswall seize over three hundred unrelated web servers?
Sweden have a new copyright law today. It was pressured through the parliament by the Swedish Anti-Pirate Bureau. The Anti-Pirate Bureau are an MPAA-backed organisation in Sweden. The MPAA had for years pressured the Swedish government to change the legislation. With the new legislation, so reasoned the MPAA, it would be possible to coerce the Swedish government into closing The Pirate Bay.
But they forgot one thing: The Pirate Bay do not distribute 'illegal downloads' - they only show visitors where the downloads are. And as Rick Falkvinge might say, it's not about downloads anyway - it's about 'file sharing'.
Earlier this year the MPAA and the RIAA put forth a good case at the Bush White House who in turned 'summoned' representatives of the Persson junta to Washington DC. There they were told that the US would implement trade sanctions through the WTO if Sweden didn't fall in line.
Back on home soil Sweden's attorney general Thomas Bodström approached prosecutor Håkan Roswall in the matter. Roswall's comment was that he did not have the authority to move forward as the new law was unclear in regards to The Pirate Bay: the law specified illegal downloads but not 'references' to where such downloads were available. The Pirate Bay were not clearly culpable under the new law, Roswall told Bodström.
Bodström reacted by sending lackeys of his undersecretary Dan Eliasson to speak with Roswall and his colleagues again. They impressed the fact that the US threatened with economic sanctions if The Pirate Bay was not closed down.
[It is of course ironic The Pirate Bay is not closed down today, despite the bust, and that the MPAA and the RIAA are for the moment completely powerless. Ed.]
Roswall had to make a decision. Like the government, he was caught between a rock and a hard place. The government knew that if they stood their ground against outside influence, the US would play bully and the people of Sweden would suffer and the people would ultimately accuse the government of slipping up. If they gave in to the US they risked being accused of 'ministerstyre' and perhaps losing the next general election.
The buck was passed to Roswall. Roswall implicitly understood his ultimate role in the affair: the scapegoat when things finally went south. He could not be forced to give in to Bodström's 'ministerstyre' but it certainly wouldn't be good for his career if he played difficult either.
Håkan Roswall has a speckled history as prosecutor of trampling on people's civil rights. 'When it comes to IT Håkan Roswall's a bull in a china shop - no, a bull in a server control room', said sources close to Rixstep.
'It's not true he has limited skills in IT - he has no skills at all. And when he's finally confronted with the fact he's blundered once again he still won't stop - he pursues his prey mercilessly - relentlessly - even after he realises he's wrong - and this is his gravest crime.'
Rixstep were given several examples of Roswall's incompetence from trial transcripts and these were, to say the least, stunning.
But granted that Roswall is a cynical apparatchik totally lacking in ethics - why still sieze all 300+ servers of The Pirate Bay's provider - all of which have nothing formally or informally or even conceivably to do with The Pirate Bay?
'Roswall's between a rock and a hard place too', say the same sources. 'He knew he had to do something or risk early retirement. This has nothing to do with right and wrong, no more than the pressure put on the government by the MPAA and the RIAA. He knows the shit's going to hit the fan on this one - and he knows how Persson works and he knows Persson will give Bodström the go-ahead to dump on him.'
'He has to pull through this one on his own - with no help from the government who are in fact going to be doing all they can to ruin him.'
One Ray of Hope
'The only chance he has is to come up with something unexpected - a needle in a stack of needles, a few bits in a disk maze of terabytes. He's already said the case against The Pirate Bay is unclear. If he tries to take the case to court, it will most likely be thrown out. Because law forbids, it doesn't allow: you can't forbid everything not explicitly mentioned in law books - you allow everything not specifically mentioned.'
'Roswall is an apparatchik, don't forget. He might be an imbecile when it comes to IT but not when it comes to nurturing his own career. He knows the score. What Bodström asked him to do is against the law and he knows it. And don't worry - he fully grasps the severity of his situation. He's in trouble - he was already in trouble when Bodström started putting his foot down and making demands. He's got one chance - one ray of hope.'
And that hope is in finding something on those unrelated servers that can blow the story all out of proportion and give it a new twist. For Roswall did not need to seize the servers to make a case: if the law had been clear in these matters he could have sued for an injunction, citing actual web content available from any Internet connection.
'But that isn't what this case is about', say Rixstep's sources. 'This case is only about Håkan Roswall saving his own backside. He's very much Sweden's answer to Ken Starr, except Starr didn't get into trouble and Roswall isn't going to make anywhere near the same kind of money. Roswall's fishing just like Starr was. Fishing for he doesn't know what. He has to come up with something or he's finished.'
Of course Håkan Roswall isn't an innocent here, as his tactic of conducting DNA tests on The Pirate Bay's legal counsel demonstrated. But his trademark penchant for Guardia Civil abuses can't help him anymore. Either he finds incriminating evidence on the servers he seized or his career comes to an abrupt and ignominious conclusion.
At which point civil rights advocates in Sweden will most likely proclaim a nationwide celebration.