When it comes to hosting a website there are thousands of companies and organizations around the world open for business. However, the options reduce massively when your site is internationally infamous.
For this reason The Pirate Bay has been hosted in many countries over the years, hopping across borders when one country or another became intolerant to its activities. As legal and political pressure mounted on the site its options narrowed further, with the threat of police raids eventually forcing even more drastic countermeasures.
For a while now the site’s true location has been unknown, hidden away in a far-off cloud and identifiable only by the connections it makes with the outside world. However, the site has to come up for air somewhere and for the last three years the site has received its Internet connectivity from Scandinavia, courtesy of the Swedish Pirate Party.
With the actual site located who-knows-where, last week the Pirate Party received the call they had been expecting. Local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance told the pirates and other Internet companies further up the chain that continuing to work with The Pirate Bay beyond Tuesday 26 would result in legal action.
Rights Alliance have the backing of the world’s largest movie and music companies and fighting them in court would be a huge burden for the Swedish Pirate Party, one that would sap their resources and divert them from their mission. So, reluctantly, the Swedish pirates have now stopped hosting The Pirate Bay, but not before a new plan was put into action.
Sometime earlier today the ropes connecting the Pirate Bay galleon to the shores of Sweden were cut and the ship sailed away into the sunset. And then, as if by magic, it split into two parts and docked in two brand new ports.
“TPB did of course have lots of backup transit lined up for ages. This is however the first time we are going to show two at the same time,” The Pirate Bay’s Winona told TorrentFreak.
“It will be interesting to see who is now blamed for hosting TPB. In the end, maybe the anti-interneterians will understand that they can’t win a fight when they have the people against them.”
The decision to choose Norway and Spain as locations for The Pirate Bay is perhaps best viewed through the prism of recent court action in the former and a complete lack of action in the latter.
Following initial pressure and a court case in 2009, the IFPI and several movie studios failed to force local ISP Telenor to block The Pirate Bay. Their 2010 appeal was also rejected when the court found that there was no legal basis to force Telenor to block the site. While that ruling on ISP liability will be of some comfort to the Norwegian pirates, the position could change if the law is amended.
But of course there’s a backup – Spain.
Despite introducing new legislation after the US threatened to place it on a trade blacklist, Spain currently offers a favorable environment for file-sharing sites.
Last April and just a month after the so-called Sinde Law went live, the Spanish Ministry of Culture revealed that the Comisión de Propiedad Intelectual (Copyright Commission) had received dozens of site closure requests from rightsholders. However, according to the Intellectual Property Alliance, little has been done in response.
“To date, only two websites have closed in response to complaints submitted to the IP Commission by IIPA’s member affiliates, and those websites closed voluntarily,” the IIPA wrote in a recent submission to the USTR.
“As of yet the IP Commission has not once made use of its authority to request a judicial writ from the Administrative Court to order the closure of a single infringing website or service. Meanwhile, IIPA is aware of at least 80 complaints that remain outstanding. More than ever, websites providing or linking to illegal content can be secure in the knowledge that takedown measures are nonexistent and result in no consequences,” they add.
Spain also offers other benefits to a site like The Pirate Bay since under current law file-sharing linking sites are not explicitly illegal. Also of interest is an IIPA complaint that Spain’s e-commerce laws do not make it clear that infringement notices are an effective means of providing ISPs with knowledge that infringement is occurring on their services.
Which is just as well, since The Pirate Bay may well attract quite a few of those.
Update: Comment from Swedish Pirate Party Leader Anna Troberg
“It is wonderful to be able to pass on the baton to two sister parties. It is testament to the pirate movement’s maturity and strength. We help each other and work with our sight set firmly on the future. Today, there are more than sixty different Pirate Parties all around the world. Every cut connection to The Pirate Bay will generate two new connections.
“You always have to chose your battles wisely,” Troberg adds. “It would be crazy to enter a game where the rules are decided by the other team. The Pirate Party’s mission is not to produce martyrs for the copyright industry. Our mission is to create longterm political change that ensures that the copyright industry in the future will not be allowed to threaten companies, organisations and individuals into silence with our common judicial system as a weapon.”
Update 2: The party may issue a police complaint.
“The Pirate Party has a board meeting in a few days. I will recommend the board to file a police report against the Rights Alliance for unlawful coercion,” Troberg says. “It is important to determine precisely how forgiving the system is to those who try to abuse the judicial system to silence others.”
France’s graduated response system for dealing with online file-sharing is not only famous around the world but also popular with rightsholders. Those who are repeatedly monitored sharing copyrighted material via peer-to-peer networks can expect a short series of warning messages followed by a punishment.
Since the system only covers BitTorrent-like public transfers, streaming and direct download sites are an attractive option for Internet users wishing to avoid its clutches. But despite the Hadopi anti-piracy agency declaring last year that there had been “a clear downward trend in illegal P2P downloads” but no “massive transfer in forms of use to streaming technologies or direct downloads”, there is still interest in these mechanisms.
French news outlet PCInpact has directed TorrentFreak to a new report published by Hadopi which proposes draconian messages to force streaming and Direct Download (DDL) sites to comply with the law.
“Some Internet sites, streaming services and direct download sites are specialized in the massive exploitation of illegal content from which they make profits for their own benefit,” the Hadopi writes. “This report, showing the state of the ecosystem of illegal streaming and direct downloads, explores different ways to fight against the massive exploitation of illegal content.”
The report, put together by Mireille Imbert-Quaretta, President at the Commission for the Protection of Rights (Commission de Protection des Droits), covers a wide range of anti-piracy techniques, some well-trodden and others more fresh.
Hadopi has always claimed that “three strikes” is primarily an educational effort and in combating streaming and direct downloads the agency begins with the same approach. Internet users should be educated about the “dangers” of obtaining media via these mechanisms through warning messages sent by Hadopi.
Aiming to push the sites themselves towards YouTube-levels of copyright compliance, Hadopi would like them to implement content recognition and filtering technologies utilizing fingerprints supplied by rightsholders. These systems could be used to completely remove content or restrict user access based on location.
However, the report goes much further by suggesting that if site operators refuse to sign filtering agreements with rightsholders and illicit content repeatedly appears, they could be subjected to a strikes-style system of their own.
“In the event that it would not be possible to reach an agreement because of the apparent unwillingness of the platform hosting the reported content [to comply with the law], the public authority may decide to correct the behavior of the platform through an alert procedure,” Numerama reports.
Suggested punishments for sites are varied, including reporting them to search engines for delisting. Google has already taken steps to remove French sites including AlloStreaming from its index in the past.
In addition, sites could be reported to a judge in order to begin a domain blocking process. Once blocked by IP and DNS, Hadopi wants to have the power to ensure that domains (and any subsequent mirrors) remain blocked. Outright domain seizures are also a possibility.
Also, in a move that mirrors more recent anti-piracy activity involving PayPal and certain credit cards, Hadopi wants to hit operators in the pocket by targeting the financial intermediaries of sites subjected to the copyright alerts procedure. This could include suspension or termination of payments but if financial partners refuse to cooperate, Hadopi suggests it could take the matter to court.
Finally, and adding momentum to initiatives underway in the United States, Hadopi wants to strangle advertising to sites subjected to the alerts procedure.
Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for
themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries
in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of
private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the
sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.
There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure
their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But
even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future.
Everything up until now will have been lost.
That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?
Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to
children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable.
"I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they
make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly legal —
there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can, something that's
already being done: we can fight back.
Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been
given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world
is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for
yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords
with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.
Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been
sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by
the publishers and sharing them with your friends.
But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or
piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a
ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only
those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.
Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate
require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they
have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who
can make copies.
There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the
grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public
We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with
the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need
to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific
journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open
With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?