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Pirates & Anti-Pirates

It's all coming together.

The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org) have no qualms about it: media are to be shared. They regularly organise demonstrations through the streets of Stockholm. Their retorts to aggressive IP protection organisations are legendary.

The Anti-Pirate Bureau were founded to fight The Pirate Bay. They're backed by the MPAA. Of course they are.

After pushing through a new controversial law, the Anti-Pirate Bureau filed a complaint against The Pirate Bay and got authorities to confiscate all The Pirate Bay's servers. And not just The Pirate Bay's servers, but all the servers being used by The Pirate Bay's ISP.

The Pirate Bay say they're going to buy new servers and should be back up and running in a day or two.

Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm run The Pirate Bay as a hobby. Authorities also confiscated servers running Neij's and Svartholm's business site PRQ, and thereby closed down service for PRQ's 300 clients. 'It's totally bizarre', says Svartholm.

Neij and Svartholm make about $60,000 a year on advertising. It's not big money, but you wouldn't know it to read the blurbs from the MPAA. That $60,000 probably goes both towards paying for the hardware (which is significant) and the bandwidth (which is a staggering 8,000 hits per second).

PRQ's clients are preparing a class action. 'Millions are being lost', says Svartholm.

Neij says he's not worried authorities will confiscate the new computer hardware. 'As I understand it, they'd first have to receive a new complaint - which in turn would have to be processed, investigated, and cleared.'

Henrik Pontén from the Anti-Pirate Bureau thinks it sounds reasonable that The Pirate Bay will resume operations. 'But the prosecutor has decided that this is a crime, so a resumption of ordinary service is a financial risk.'

Completely Legal or Accessory?

Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm insist The Pirate Bay is completely legal. Professor Dennis Töllborg is sympathetic, is highly critical of the new law, but still thinks the courts will crush The Pirate Bay.

'If I were sitting on the supreme court I'd find them guilty', he says.

Töllborg has been the hero of the file sharing movement ever since his televised interview criticising the new law. 'There's no sense having a law 600,000 people break on a daily basis', he said at the time.

But Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm don't have any IP on their servers: they only provide links to such material on other servers.

Töllborg is aware of that but still thinks the courts will crush The Pirate Bay.

'The whole point of the law is to make it illegal for people to download copyright protected material. But The Pirate Bay's links are helping people do precisely that. If I were sitting on the supreme court I'd find them guilty. I think they'll be found guilty of being accessories to crime.'

Further Ramifications

Töllborg doesn't think the bust of The Pirate Bay will do much to stop file sharing, and he's still highly critical of the law. His solution is to exact a fee from the technology companies who profit by it, such as Apple. The fees can then be paid to copyright owners.

'If Apple refuse to pay, they're an easily identified target. The number of criminals is reduced from 600,000 to a hundred technology companies.'

The Pirate Bay bill their site as the world's largest BitTorrent tracker. It also acts as an index for torrent files it tracks.

The servers which run Hypercube Tracking Software are located in Stockholm. On 1 June 2005, The Pirate Bay updated their website in an effort to reduce bandwidth usage which was reported to be at 2000 HTTP requests per second on each of the four servers, as well as create a more user friendly interface for the frontend of the website.

In Sweden the site is more than just an electronic speakeasy: it's the flagship of a national file-sharing movement that's generating an intense national debate, and has even spawned a pro-piracy political party making a credible bid for seats in parliament.

But the new law - and comparable legislation on the boards in other EU countries - does not stop with making file sharing of IP illegal: it also makes the distribution of software capable of circumventing copyright protection illegal.

This effectively makes Linux itself illegal.

It's all coming together.

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