The rise and fall of the web pirateer

The Pirate Bay seem to have found themselves somewhat marooned after sailing a rough sea of lawsuits against the dubious content which their site provides links to. Why? How? What next? Article

Zack Whittaker is away working hard (or hardly working, take your pick) on another projects. Elliot Harrison once again fills these size 12 shoes (the length of a small baby) to bring you another culinary delight of technology news, served hot with sautéed potatoes.

Doubtless many readers of iGeneration will have already heard the latest about how the 'pirates' of The Pirate Bay seem to have found themselves somewhat marooned after sailing a rough sea of lawsuits against the dubious content which their site provides links to. As a result, they may have to give much of their hard earned booty back to various media companies and music artists in compensation and face a prison sentence. SEK 30 million to be precise which roughly equates to $3.6 million dollars.

Alright, I overdid the pirate imagery there a bit, though it was worth it.

The Swedish group of Internet pirates, better known by some of their Internet aliases, such as Anakata and TiAMO, run a website which indexes and tracks BitTorrent files posted across the expanse of the Internet. These links provide people with access to files which can be downloaded as is the inherent nature of a BitTorrent engine. In some cases these links on the tracker site are to independently produced works and shareware programs provided for the good of the users of the Internet, which is no doubt nice.

The core of the issue raised within the recent court case deals with certain copyright infringements which can occur as a result of this, and the mass of illegally placed software, music, films and other media which is on the Internet which can be accessed easily using this site as a medium.

Look at this from a music perspective as an example. Some may wish to argue that this is bad because it rips off the artist, in the sense that they aren't getting as many sales from the albums/singles produced. Though the other side, (and you can guess whose side this is!) argue that this is good as it removes the need for record companies and allows artists to become more independent; reducing the massive amounts of money record companies charge for advertising and suchlike.

I've had a good look at all of the letters and emails which the pirates have proudly posted upon their website from various lawyers and media companies who complain that they are knowingly providing links to this contraband media and the results are alarming, not least because I could NEVER be that cocky to a massive American company breathing down my neck for answers. Such is the way of the Pirate I guess.

They have a separate link on the front-page of their site entitled: 'legal threats'. More amusing still are the replies which they have also provided for our viewing pleasure. As formal replies they seem very angst ridden, dismissive and petulant. However if you were to cut through all of that, the Swedish boys and girls do seem to have a sound argument. Take for example, the "Apple Response", both with Apple's representation and a reply from The Pirate Bay following after:

> Builds of unreleased Apple software are distributed under strict > confidentiality agreements. Your torrent site appears to be engaged > in a practice of soliciting and disseminating Apple trade secrets. > This practice is grounds for both civil and criminal liability. To > avoid further liability, you must refrain from inducing the breach of > any Apple confidentiality agreements, soliciting Apple trade secrets, > and distributing Apple trade secrets on your site.

...Or what? You and Hans Brix will send us angry letters? Fortunately for you, we don't keep sharks as pets.

In simple terms, they state to these international companies two simple facts:

  • Swedish legislation does not recognize any anti-piracy laws from neighbouring countries, and as a result the pirates cannot be bound by the copyright laws of these other countries.
  • The copyrighted media which can be illegally downloaded is not accessible on the servers on which The Pirate bay is hosted. The media is through a link and stored on another site on the net.

These are two irrefutable facts which seem to have kept the pirates above water for a good while. The website went live in November 2003, so the best part of seven years; however as of January this year the group of Buccaneers have become unstuck. The Swedish laws which seemed to have protected their voyages around the net turned on them abruptly after much pressure from International media agencies such as The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who hold the intellectual rights to the copyrighted media available through the site.

This, unsurprisingly, resulted in a court case placed by Swedish authorities who filed charges against the Pirates on the grounds that they are, "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws."

Wow. Try shooting your way out of this one, me hearties'. That's even worse than getting caught illegally downloading yourself. The trial which begun in January finally ended on 17th April, just three days ago.

Sentenced were Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström, all found guilty of the charges brought. I reiterate, they are sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of 30 million SEK in compensation to various companies.

So what's next? Well the boys at the Pirate Bay have said they will appeal against this losing verdict in accordance with Swedish law, where no verdict can be fully instated unless all appeals have been processed. All I can say is I wish them the best of luck, they clearly feel passionately about their cause and seem to have a great deal of support around the world.

Thoughts, feelings and digital pillages below, please.