upload: Piracy hits stormy seas

The law comes down hard on internet piracy

Feature by Alex Cole | 23 Jul 2009
  • the_pirate_bay

It seemed like it would raid and pillage forever. Wherever you stand on software piracy (and music, and movies, and “gentlemen’s literature”), The Pirate Bay was the titular flagship of the digital pirate movement. If it was of even marginal interest and could be stuffed into a torrent file, the trackers at the Bay could find it and hand-deliver it to your Downloads folder, along with the occasional spyware and only the faintest whiff of guilt from The Man.

But all that foundered on the rocks after the Swedish court ruled the founders were guilty of assisting to copyright infringement this April, and despite shaky evidence, numerous appeals and allegations of bias (as well as hackers legally changing the name of an industry litigator), the ruling stands. That includes a fine to the tune of £2,385,000. In spite of this, the website has remained largely unaffected and is still pillaging its merry way, but things were thrown for another loop last month, when ad firm Global Gaming Factory X announced it intended to buy the entire site for just over £4.7 million. Vague plans were floated about turning the site into some kind of pay-for-play scheme, but nothing has yet materialized. Worse yet, while the company’s stock price doubled immediately following the announcement, the euphoria has quickly worn off and made things a zero-sum share price game.

With even luminaries like Stephen Fry admitting they use the site, the many copyright organizations spearheaded by the MPAA and RIAA in the States have taken on an infamous, steal-your children-while-you-sleep menace. At the same time, torrentfreak.com reports that EU Commissioner for Telecoms and Media Viviane Reding feels that piracy is seen by many as increasingly sexy. As courts have a limited reach when it comes to hunting down ne’er-do-wells on the internet, the duel between piracy and the Establishment is increasingly one of public opinion, one the Establishment has trouble winning by litigating 12 year olds.

And it may all come to naught in the end. A recent study by The Guardian reveals that the newest generation of consumers is downloading a little over half as much as they were just a year ago, opting instead for hassle-free (and money-free) streaming options like YouTube, last.fm and Spotify. As your files become increasingly stashed somewhere on the internet for access anywhere, we may be moving towards a society unconcerned with digital ownership, so long as there’s a common, streaming library to draw from. And no annoying CD packaging to tear through. [Alex Cole]