The co-founders of Sweden's Pirate Bay were found guilty on Friday of “assisting making available copyrighted material”. The day after the conviction, hundreds of bandana-clad protestors took to the streets in Stockholm to protest the decision.
The Pirate Bay is a peer-to-peer file sharing website that uses a protocol called BitTorrent to allow users to share movies, music, and other media with each other. The BitTorrent protocol has also been used by anarchists to distribute political media at OneBigTorrent.org and by the CBC to distribute a reality TV show. Files can be shared at any of those sites using a BitTorrent client. The most popular client for Windows is µTorrent.
The Pirate Bay has taken an extremely hostile stance against the large corporations that make up the copyright lobby, who they see as attacking free culture. They have made a tradition of posting legal threats they receive to their website along with their responses. They responded to a threat by Dreamworks Studios, of Shrek fame, for example, with an email that states “it is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are morons and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.”
Since the ruling, someone has created a custom Google-based torrent search engine to drive home the idea that sites like the Pirate Bay are nothing more than search engines that hold no copyrighted material of their own, and that criminalizing them essentially entails criminalizing the entire internet. Many people are also predicting the rise of a new BitTorrent-compatible tool called OneSwarm, developed at the University of Washington, that further decentralizes the file sharing process, and that better protects the privacy of users.
We discussed the Pirate Bay case and its implications with Oscar Swartz, who covered the trial for wired.com and is a leading critic in Sweden of intellectual property. He also started Sweden's first Internet Service Provider in 1994, and co-founded Scandinavia's largest gay media group. We reached him in Berlin on Sunday by telephone.