Is Pirate Bay Sinking?

Category: File-Sharing

Pirate Bay is one of world's largest facilitators of illegal downloading. But now the owners are facing the prospect of huge fines and jail time. Is this the end of the line for online video, music and software pirates?

The Pirate BayIn 2003, three young men from Sweden created a website called The Pirate Bay, which was essentially a catalog of all the illegal downloads available on the Internet. The Pirate Bay search engine lets people search for and download BitTorrent files, which contain copyrighted music, movies, TV shows and software. (See my companion article Download With Bittorrent? for more info on the Bittorrent technology, software and legal issues.) class="imgmain" />

Pirate Bay - Grand Theft Audio?

Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde fancy themselves as anti-copyright crusaders. But in a high-profile legal trial that just concluded in Stockholm, they were portrayed by the prosecution as criminals for "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws". The verdict will be announced on April 17, at which time the defendants could face 1-2 years in jail, and fines of over $180,000 USD. On top of that, various motion picture, recording, and software industry groups have filed claims for damages of over $12 million for lost revenue.

Granted, the Pirate Bay site is not directly involved in infringements of copyright laws, since no illegal material passes directly through their servers. They just make it a LOT easier for a LOT of people to distribute and download copyrighted materials. They also make a LOT of money doing that. The website is monetized by advertisements alongside the search results, to the tune of about $75,000 (USD) per month, according Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper.

The proprietors of The Pirate Bay claim that these revenue figures are grossly inflated, but clearly something attracted the attention of Swedish financier Carl Lundström, who invested in the company, and is now on the legal hook along with the three who started it. And clearly, they knew that their activity could land them in trouble, because of their attempt to purchase the micro-nation of Sealand, in order to skirt Swedish law.

Are Online Pirates Doomed?

So Svartholm, Neij, Sunde and Lundström could be sinking in their own pirate ship. The outcome of the trial is not yet known, but if they do go to jail and incur huge fines, it will be a chlling warning to others who provide similar services -- and to those who use them. What about the 3 million registered users who use The Pirate Bay to locate and download illegally copied, music, movies and software?

Will the courts force Pirate Bay and other sites to cough up their user lists, enabling the MPAA, RIAA and software companies to go after them? You could make the argument that these are the real bad guys in this case. They're the ones who are clearly flouting copyright laws, and unjustly depriving the creators of desirable content the fruit of their labors.

If you don't think that people can get sued for downloading a pirated copy of Coldplay's Viva La Vida, an episode of Desperate Housewives, or Grand Theft Auto, think again. See Download With Bittorrent? and Sued For Downloading? for some background on these issues. There has even been concern about people getting sued for searching for copyrighted material at file sharing sites.

Do you think it's fair for the creators of The Pirate Bay to walk the plank -- to go to jail or pay huge fines for providing this service? Are you concerned that individual downloaders could be next in the crosshairs? Post your comments below!

UPDATE: In April, the operators of Pirate Bay were sentenced in by a Swedish court to a year in prison and fines of 30 million kronor (about US$3.8 million). A Swedish high court review of the case later ruled that the judge was not biased against the defendants, as was alleged after the verdict. And as one might expect, the pirate kingpins are planning to appeal the verdict. Stay tuned...

 
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Most recent comments on "Is Pirate Bay Sinking?"

(See all 29 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Ted
05 Mar 2009

Shane and HMAN: You are both either morons, or too young to have enough experience with the real world to see things clearly.

How about an analogy to put things in perspective? Suppose you worked for years to write a really great book. It's selling pretty well, until one day some guy scans the book and puts it online as a free downloadable file. Hordes of people download the free ebook, and sales of your paper book dwindle down to nothing. How do you feel? I thought so...


Posted by:

Chris
05 Mar 2009

Comment on John's post

John: On one serious level, Pirate Bay is helping others to violate laws.

Although, I don't pirate software/music, I think that this view is a bit skewed. Car companies build cars with the ability to generate speeds in excess of 75 MPH. There isn't a speed limit in the USA greater than 75 to my knowledge. Your logic dictates that the car companies are helping others violate speed limit laws and should be stopped. Do I think file sharing is illegal...yes...to some extent.

Is recording a TV show/movie shown on cable or taping a song directly off of the radio/satellite radio to keep in your library wrong? Again...to some extent. I suppose it's who you ask. I think all media should be free...but I understand capitalism, being a businessman myself.

...and on a lighter note Bob, keep those ads coming.....I'd like your FREE newsletter to stay FREE :) !!!


Posted by:

THX1138
05 Mar 2009

A question: where do the LEGAL arguments live?

When I become aware of a good book, movie or CD,I spread the word and more books, movies and music are sold to others. I'm just guessing, based on the fact that I buy more books, movies and CDs, BECAUSE the informatin flows freely. I buy when the artist produces something of value to me. And I refer others to that piece of work. How they acquire their copy, I personally don't care. If someone refers me to an artist by way of a bootleg copy, I buy their work in the future if I think the work is of value. i.e., more people are buying the products, possibly, than they otherwise would. The exponential growth of the industry can't continue forever, but is the CORPORATION suffering so now that they have to send the lawyers out hunting? They might consider a different model to fill their coffers and let the networking pirates be the ad agencies. Merge into the information and profit.

Note: I've met some brilliant kids that know their way around the workings of the internet, and they wouldn't be so bright without the pirates. And when they rise out of poverty, they contribute more to culture and the economy than the majority of plain old honest shoppers that can't find their way past email and youTube or WallyWorld. Don't keep the boys and girls ignorant by chasing them down with lawyers or they might become lawyers themselves in retaliation. I'll retract that last comment....

EDITOR'S NOTE: Open Source seems like a better answer than piracy...


Posted by:

Cameron
05 Mar 2009

I don't feel it is fair for them to attack TPB as all they are doing is helping. I believe in Sweden they have a law saying the person who PUTS the file on The Pirate Bay for example is the one who gets the fire? It would be completely unfair and unnecessary for them to send out the lists of who has been downloading as for a start they may not have continued to download for example. I also agree with what Shane said.


Posted by:

Ron
05 Mar 2009

H MAN said "Why is 'file' sharing diffent from some other type of sharing. The short answer... it is the same." No, it is NOT. It is ENTIRELY different. Let me try to take your example of borrowing a cup to its logical conclusion. If you "borrow" a cup of sugar from me, I don't have it anymore. If a dozen of my neighbors borrow a cup of sugar, I won't have any left and I'll have to go back to the store and buy more. The company that produces the product gets paid for every cup that gets used. This is totally different from having one person buy a song file and then having who-knows-how-many people make free copies of it, having full benefit of its use, with no compensation to the company that produced it.


Posted by:

colddigits
05 Mar 2009

A-a-a-hem! I tried Pirate Bay for the first time about 3 weeks ago to get a Leona Lewis song ... wanted to listen before I purchase cd. It took forever to download and there is no sound. Tried another one, no sound so I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained, but the disappointment is still lingering.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You may have something else lingering... it's common for viruses and spyware to be disguised as music files on the P2P networks.


Posted by:

David
05 Mar 2009

Ok, when bands are young they love sharing their music on the internet but when they get well known and rich they don't like it. I don't know, seems either hypocritical or greedy to me, I mean when you're a freakin billionaire why do you care so much about a few people, who probably wouldn't buy the cd anyway or couldn't buy it because they can't afford it, listening to your music for free. Couldn't you put your time and resources to a better use than chasing down a few poor people who want to listen to you but can't afford to buy your cd. Plus, how can you really police the whole world? Whenever someone wants something bad enough they are going to find a way to get it, one way or another. Just think how smooth the www would be w/o all this hoorahrah. There'd be alot less stress and ulcers if everybody would just chill out. That's my two cents anyway...


Posted by:

Jake
05 Mar 2009

My comment pertains to music. Not games, tv shows, movies etc. Everyone used to buy cassettes, then cd's. Cassettes were about $7.99, cd's $15.99, this went on for years (until the pc age). The cd's were cheap, I'm guessing pennies for large quantities. The cd's could've been sold for $7.99 but no the greedy music companies sold them for $15.99. Payback is a bitch.


Posted by:

mmf
05 Mar 2009

It's real simple, it's called the law of supply and demand. If there's no demand, there will be no supply. Does anyone think that creative people such as writers, and songwriters create just for fun? Wrong, the fun is collecting money to spend on something that is fun. So, if they don't get paid for their work, they won't work. How many of you reading this would go to work today if you weren't getting paid?


Posted by:

Bassim
05 Mar 2009

File sharing, torrents and what new technology could come in future can not be stopped by adopting medieval measures like jailing, fining...etc.

There should be a new approach to this issue away from the colossal greed of music and the like industries where a stray boy becomes a billionaire within months while a hard working scientist burns his whole life in research barley brings ends together.

If the copyright holders "mostly artists" can accept a reasonable income, then there could be a way to insure the satisfaction of all sides, the copy holders, "pirates" and the main steam people.

If we read the contemporary history of technology we will see the same arguments with the radio emergence as well as with TV against theaters movie houses, books and newspapers, at the end no one killed the other, only the natural process of development governs here.

The technology giant had woke up long time ago and nothing can stop it.

Bassim

Baghdad-Iraq


Posted by:

Pumpkin
05 Mar 2009

Has anyone mentioned the legal downloads avail. from TPB ? Will down-loaders be penalized for old-time radio and other public domain stuff??


Posted by:

Rello
06 Mar 2009

Ted, what you are saying has flaws as well. What if that writer had been paid a rediculous sum of money to write that book and for it to be published. Money that comes from people like us being ripped off? I bet you are one of these people who has a really well paid job and is rolling in cash. What about the people that are not. Here in England going to the cinema is extortionate so why should we miss out on stuff because off rip off Britain. A country that screws us but doesn't like it when we screw back.


Posted by:

Ted
06 Mar 2009

You and your fellow Brits chose a socialist government, hoping that they would "redistribute wealth", "tax the rich", "create a more just society", blah, blah, blah. Surprise... Britain is bankrupt, healthcare stinks and the middle class suffers. Class warfare never works. Socialism brings everyone down.

Whining about what other people have, and using that as an excuse for stealing from them is not the answer. Only the principles of liberty, personal responsibility and hard work will bring prosperity and satisfaction. It can start with you...


Posted by:

Deke
07 Mar 2009

Is it possible that people could stop banging on about stinking rich media companies as an excuse for ripping them off? When you go to do your food shopping at Tosco or wherever, you're making the people at the top very rich indeed, but that doesn't mean that the shelf stackers and checkout staff are getting paid much above the minimum wage, and likewise, just because the media companies are similarly run by fat cats doesn't make it right to rip off all the people at the bottom of the pile.

More to the point it doesn't give you the right to rip off my brother for his miserable point one of a penny or whatever he gets per unit shifted, and no, like most musos, he's never played on a million seller...


Posted by:

Pessimist
07 Mar 2009

Even if this ship sinks, there will be others, including Russia, China -- especially China, who already owns half of the US and does not give a damn about suicidal US laws. And guess who made it possible? Well, of course, Americans! They sold their country to the last stone to the Chinese communist government (free trade is untouchable), but they arguing about how to save every penny for media companies and Hollywood. Wake up! You will not be able to pay a dollar for a CD soon!


Posted by:

Bassim
07 Mar 2009

Good news for jobless tech. gifted people.

The ardent crackdowns on different torrent
sites and even innocent individuals in many
cases has brought to the front a new/old flourishing business called anonymity or anonym-yzing where you are offered a paid service to surf the web unidentified, download pirated digital "merchandise" either directly or by torrents from servers only God knows their location without being identified even by your
own ISP according to the bidders.

As usual, there will be tremendous advances in this respect within the coming months and not years, may be we will see free services just like free unlimited file type or size storage/hosting offered now which was a dream a year ago.

So, technology progress and innovation has no limits and can not be stopped by ruthless measures as long as there are people eager to develop.

A new approach to the digital business is a must.

Bassim


Posted by:

T. Smith
07 Mar 2009

If you download copy right material the best thing to do is buy an external 1tb hd for $100 and put all the down loads on that. Turn the drive on only when you want to listen to some music or watch a movie. In this way if your pc is hacked into they wont find the files that you have downloaded.

Also d/l, and run. PeerGuardian2 whenever you d/l any files from a P2P site. While it wont stop everyone it will hide most of your downloads from prying eyes.

Freedom to download what you want will not be stopped by these greedy corporations!


Posted by:

Colin Bain
08 Mar 2009

Of course there is the rather elegant solution of downloading the item and then donating the usual artist fee through the "guilt" website.
The companie's have made their cash within 1 year or less. The artists get their due (probably more more guilt really adds $ to the donation) and the downloaders get their media guilt free.
In some ways it is like the patent on a drug. Brand name gets time for a profit (I know, there is an argument about how much, but I'm taling principle here!) After a time generics can make their cash without the research costs.


Posted by:

Jehanyar Saleh
08 Mar 2009

When Sony and other big companies steal each others software they get away with it. When corporate robbers steal money from there own banks and then get paid by the government nobody says anything. Wake up people. Your turn to sue.


Posted by:

justin
08 Sep 2009

File sharing is great! why shouldnt it be allowed?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Money sharing is great too! Can I have yours?


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