Posted By: Deborah Ilea
The Pirate Bay marks its seventh anniversary this month, proving that it just may be, as it touts itself, the world’s most resilient bittorrent site. Unfortunately, this anniversary coincides with a Swedish court decision rejecting the appeal of the site’s founders making the future of the site a questionable one. Only time will tell if the site will manage to hang on to its resiliency or go the way of pirates of old and turn into some fairytale myth we tell our grandchildren.
When the site went up in November of 2003, the bittorrent protocol was just a baby, not quite two years old. Today, it is one of the most common protocols used in the transfer of large files – estimated to account for 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic as of February 2009, according to Wikipedia. Wikipedia, BitTorrent (protocol), https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/BitTorrent_%28protocol%29 (last updated November 29, 2010). The Pirate Bay has grown right along with the protocol and today is ranked number 92 in the world in the Alexa Traffic Rank list. See http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/thepiratebay.org.
The bittorrent protocol is not the only thing to change during the sites 7-year history. The popularity of the Internet and sites like The Pirate Bay has caused many countries to take a closer look at their copyright laws. In 2006, in response to the 2001 European Union enactment of its Copyright Directive to implement the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty (the wheels of law turn ever so slowly), France passed its Loi sur le Droit d’Auteur et les Droits Voisins dans la Société de l’Information (law on authors’ rights and related rights in the information society), commonly referred to as DADVSI. This law focuses on “the exchange of copyrighted works over peer-to-peer networks and the criminalizing of the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) protection measures.” Wikipedia, DADVSI, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/DADVSI (last update October 1, 2010). The same year, the United States and Japan came up with the idea to create a “plurilateral agreement for the purpose of establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement.” Wikipedia, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement (last updated November 28, 2010). In 2008, when official talks began on what has come to be known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, there were ten countries plus the European Union participating.
The ever-evolving laws surrounding copyrighted works, both internationally and in Sweden where The Pirate Bay is located, have caused the site many litigation woes. The harshest of these was the filing in 2008 of “a joint criminal and civil prosecution in Sweden of four individuals charged for promoting the copyright infringement of others with The Pirate Bay site.” Wikipedia, The Pirate Bay, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/The_Pirate_Bay#Trial (last updated November 28, 2010). It is this case which resulted, in April 2010, in the four defendants being found guilty and sentenced to jail time plus hefty fines. The last appellate avenue available to them just returned decision rejecting their appeal, lowering their jail time, and considerably increasing their fines.
The site has pursued many creative avenues to avoid copyright laws – including negotiations at one point to buy the Principality of Sealand to host their servers just off the British coast on an old World War II Fort whose owners have been claiming themselves a sovereign state. Unfortunately, the deal fell through. More recently, other creative ideas have popped up in the pirate community: hosting servers on a ship, in a blimp, even in a satellite orbiting the Earth. Apparently, even the sky’s not the limit.