AFP - Four people who run one of the world's leading file-sharing websites denied any wrongdoing as they went on trial in Sweden Monday for facilitating illegal downloads of copyrighted material.
"File-sharing services can be used both legally and illegally," one defence lawyer, Per Samuelsson, stressed to the court after the trial against The Pirate Bay organisers opened in Stockholm.
Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem are accused of "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws," according to charges filed by senior public prosecutor Haakan Roswall.
If found guilty, the four each face sentences up to two years in jail and heavy fines.
Representatives of the movie, music and video games industry are asking for around 115 million kronor (10.6 million euros, 13.5 million dollars) in damages and interest for losses incurred from tens of millions of illegal downloads facilitated by the company.
Founded in 2003, The Pirate Bay makes it possible to skirt copyright fees and share music, film and computer game files using torrent technology, or peer-to-peer links offered on the site.
None of the material can thus be found on The Pirate Bay server itself.
"It is legal to offer a service that can be used in both a legal and illegal way, according to Swedish law," Samuelsson said at the trial, which was broadcast live by Swedish public radio.
The Pirate Bay's services "can be compared to making cars that can be driven faster than the speed limit," he said.
Another defence attorney, Jonas Nilsson, insisted that "the individual Internet users who use Pirate Bay services ... must answer for the material they have in their possession or the files they might share with others."
The website claims nearly 22 million users around the world, with about a million accessing the site daily.
Swedish police raided the company's offices several times and seized nearly 200 servers in 2006, temporarily shuttering the site. But it resurfaced a few days later with servers spread among different countries.
The trial is set to last about three weeks.