The court noted that the men, known as "crackers", did not personally benefit from the pirate copies, and that they were only distributed to a small group rather than to the public at large. They used computers at a vocational college in Kuopio to download, "crack" and distribute files.
The men were associated with DrinkOrDie, a global organisation that distributed illegal files known as "warez". It was broken up around the turn of the millennium by law enforcement agencies in various countries, including the United States and Australia.
Altogether four Finns were convicted of involvement in 2003. Three were sentenced to prison. They were all required to pay some 30,000 euros in damages to companies such as Walt Disney, Microsoft, Sony as well as the Finnish copyright organisation Teosto.
Two appealed and have now had their sentences overturned. The other two, who did not, must now pay the damages between the two of them.
Ilkka Vuorenmaa, lawyer for the Finnish Anti-Piracy Centre, said he was surprised by the ruling. He expressed concern that it would make internet piracy more attractive in Finland.