Pirates on the high seas have been stealing headlines lately, holding captains hostage and attacking their ships. But today, music industry execs struck a potentially fatal blow against e-piracy.

A Swedish court sentenced Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde—founders of the peer-to-peer (P2P) search engine/BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay—to a year in jail and ordered them to pay damages of 30 million kronor ($3.54 million) to the music and film industries. (via Billboard)

According to Billboard, “The court found the defendants guilty of making 33 specific files accessible for illegal P2P file-sharing. It ordered that damages must be paid to companies including all the majors and film studios MGM and 20th Century Fox.”

The men denied the charges, arguing the Pirate Bay technically did not host copyrighted content—it just provided a tool to search for illegal P2P torrents.

According to the Billboard, Sunde dismissed the dramatic trial as “just theater for the media” in a recent Twitter post: ‘”It used to be only movies, now even verdicts are out before the official release,” he added, claiming that he received a leak of the verdict last night.’

The article also quotes Lundstrom’s attorney Per Samuelson, who is shocked by both the verdict and the sentence: “That’s outrageous, in my point of view. Of course we will appeal. This is the first word, not the last. The last word will be ours.”

This seems to be a dramatic continuation of the maligned RIAA “witch hunts” dragged into the international sphere. In the spirit of making examples of people comes the following quote from Helen Smith, executive chair of the Independent Music Companies Association IMPALA (of which Epitaph, HQ for the plasticization of punk, is a member), which exposes the naivety of out-of-touch/nostalgic industry execs:

“This [sentencing] is music to the ears of the thousands of small independents and artists who produce the majority of new releases today. It demonstrates a real understanding of the dilemma that if no one pays for music today who will make the exciting new music of tomorrow?”

Smith’s argument hinges on the glaringly narrow, essentialist assumption that artists create music with money as the end goal, dollar signs rather than creative vision in their minds’ eyes. While that may be true for some musicians, and not to preclude an artist’s right to see financial returns on their work, I’m not totally convinced that “exciting new music” was ever or will ever be the end result of purely monetary undertaking. So who will make the exciting new music of tomorrow? Artists embracing free downloads as a tool for DIY self-promotion, who aren’t afraid of touring for money and, in general, don’t take creative direction from money. People may not want to pay for recorded music, but they’ll sure as hell will pay to see live music, especially if they can familiarize themselves with the beats before hand.

Further, “IMPALA’s mission is to grow the independent music sector, promote cultural diversity and cultural entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise the perception of the music industry.”

Improving political access to what for whom, exactly? Access to the internet is already taken for granted, despite cultural and socioeconomic divides—high speed connections and iTunes accounts/credit cards required to download music legally are a luxury for plenty of people, and the internet is about 80% written in English, excluding individuals who don’t speak that language of globalization. Modernizing public perception of the music industry will only be hindered by such example-making of P2P sites like The Pirate Bay.

In my mind, it’s the music industry’s own perception of reality, of the direction in which technology is throttling ahead, and of harnessing free downloads as a means of PR, that needs modernizing.

Check out The Pirate Bay for footage of their online press conference held earlier today.