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Cat and Mouse Game

Translated from the Expressen editorial.


Afraid? Shaken? Not exactly. Twenty four hours after the police raids spokespersons for The Pirate Bay are speaking at the Reboot Conference in Copenhagen and telling the audience the site will be back online in a matter of hours. With new servers in new countries. In the meantime the pirates are working on their anarchist underdog image. At the Reboot Conference the audience are continually brought to laughter. One of the pirates evidently faked a nervous breakdown and confessed to the assassination of prime minister Olof Palme.

This cat and mouse game has gone on a long time. The Pirate Bay have openly ridiculed companies who've threatened legal action and bragged about being the world's biggest BitTorrent tracker.

But if you wave your finger in someone's face long enough you'll end up with a broken jaw. The difficulty for the enemy was getting at the pirates legally - even after the new tougher law went into effect.

The pirates made a big thing of it and continued to wave their fingers. 'You can't touch us, you can't touch us.'

And at last the broken jaw. But representatives for The Pirate Bay still comport themselves with the same self-confidence.

They say 'we can't be convicted in a court'.

They say 'this is a scandal that will affect the national elections'.

They say 'if you cut off one of our roots we'll just grow new roots elsewhere - look: now we're in Russia and Holland instead'.

They say 'Bodström is a puppet with a head that bobs for the White House and Hollywood'.

They say 'we're Robin Hood and Zorro in black t-shirts size XXXL'.

There are rumours that financial interests have begun offering The Pirate Bay huge donations. The Pirate Party their membership is growing astronomically. On Saturday there will be demonstrations in Stockholm where the Pirate Party and the Pirate Bureau will arrange things together with several youth federations.

It appears as if the file sharing battle has finally made its way into the broader political debate. Where it should of course have been years ago when Sweden changed the laws.

But the debate is not that simple because it deals with a lot of things at once. File sharers chose an intellectual point of view early on and saw the new law in the light of the general monopoly, patent, and copyright hysteria sweeping the planet.

But the entertainment industry have always looked at matters from the point of view of financial profit - which has meant that they have time and again got it wrong. When record sales dropped at the end of the 1970s for the first time, they blamed the Walkman and the spread of cassette tapes. When sales dropped for the second time in 2001 the same companies blamed file sharing on the Internet.

And on neither occasion did anyone listen to those voices that said there could be other reasons for the drop in sales.

There's been a vacuum in the debate for a long time. When more and more products are sold with tougher and tougher copy protection, very few people have spoken about how consumer rights to use purchased products have been violated in a suspect way. Neither the entertainment industry nor the legislations have considered the intellectual discussion of file sharing, copyrights, and how artistic content is actually created. They probably thought they didn't have to worry about the 'freakos'. But that was a mistake and now they have to pay. The actual cost is that a great many people have decided what side they're on: the other side.

They say 'Bodström is a puppet with a head that bobs for the White House and Hollywood'.

They say 'we're Robin Hood and Zorro in black t-shirts size XXXL'.

They say 'hey check it out - we're into politics'.

And suddenly it's Bodström who's the bad guy on television and a guy from The Pirate Bay admits to the murder of Olof Palme in a police interrogation room and gets the audience at the technical conference in Copenhagen to laugh through half the night.

This is an upside-down world - and the file sharers think it will stay this way if The Pirate Bay is acquitted in a coming trial.

But ironically it's this development The Pirate Bay should fear the most. For an acquittal will inevitably lead to a demand for tougher laws. A law which for example would make operations of The Pirate Bay directly illegal. And with an acquittal the entertainment industry will have enough ammunition to get politicians on their side. There are more than one million file sharers in Sweden. They're not only spreading copyrighted property but also free property. One effect of an acquittal and a new tougher law would be that the channels for free property would also be threatened because it's almost impossible to distinguish between the legal file sharing and the illegal file sharing.

They namely use the same tools and the same distribution channels whereof The Pirate Bay is one. All will be affected, in other words.

The question is thus what responsibility The Pirate Bay, with their cat and mouse game, have for such a development.

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