There are real pirates along the Somali coast, but they are outside the scope of this article. Here, we talk about the more notorious pirates these days - online pirates. We come to visit these notorious online shady characters because their home base, the Pirate Bay, was recently hit with a guilty verdict for online piracy. Well, more precisely, the four operators of the site were convicted by a district court in Stockholm, Sweden, for being accessories to crime against copyright law, and were sentenced to one year in jail and an approximately US$3.6 million fine. What exactly does this mean, and how has it affected online piracy
Well, if you would like to check, the web site The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org) is still online, and it's operating at peak efficiency. There hasn't been any change yet. Also, the four operators of the site - Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström - are not currently in jail. So the most obvious effect has not come to pass yet, their verdict is on appeal. Also, a more confusing development, the Pirate Bay web site was sold to Swedish software firm Global Gaming Factory for US$7.7 million on July 1st. If that wasn't enough twist for you, the site has announced that it is opening the Video Bay, a streaming video service that will explicitly offer up copyrighted content in contrast to sites like YouTube. So the people responsible for the web site are convicted of being accessories to a crime which no one is prosecuting, and sell the site on which the crime was reported to have happened for more than double the fine that they received from the government,.open up a new more explicitly copyright-violating site, and laugh at the whole thing as it goes to appeal. You don't see this every day.
While no one can predict all the consequences of this conviction, noted legal experts are saying that the verdict is encouraging other European countries to begin to bring suits against the Pirate Bay. Also, the four guys who went through the whole trial are feeling drained, lethargic, and confused. They don't know what to do next, so in a morale sense, their enemies have won at least temporarily.
The purchase of the domain name thepiratebay.org by Global Gaming Factory is also another aspect that has experts buzzing. The company seems to have unrealistic goals for the site - they want to make it a legitimate site which breaks no laws, and brings in US$40 million a month in ad revenue. They also want to sell users' unused hard drive space to companies, surplus bandwidth to ISPs, and charge leechers to download files. All of these changes have users wary. The obvious reaction was written in Sunde's blog: "If the new owners will screw around with the site, nobody will keep using it."
So we have an overly optimistic company planning to make millions off of a free community of what may be a fizzling explosion of a web site, dispirited tech guys who have lost their morale, and other governments planning to attack thepiratebay.org. The only thing that hasn't changed is the amount of piracy on the Internet. And I'm not sure that anything will be able to change that now.