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The Obligatory Pirate Bay Article
February 17, 2009
Thomas Mennecke
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Here you are - the obligatory “The Pirate Bay” article. Just about every major news outlet is covering some aspect of the trial. The history, defiance, and exceptional character of The Pirate Bay has conjured up the imagination of the press and the online community, as almost 10 years since the launch of Napster, there’s finally an P2P entity that’s once again worthy of mainstream attention.

A lot has transpired since June 1999 – the month the first release of Napster went public. Before there was Napster, there was still file-sharing, but it would be almost unrecognizable today. Napster is often given credit as the first P2P community, but that’s not really true. FileTopia existed before Napster, while search/indexing services were popular on IRC. Napster brought P2P in the mainstream, but it was by no means the first file-sharing community.

Nine years and 8 months since Napster's launch, we have another spectacle, this time surrounding TPB. Media attention on this trial has been intense, with global publicity on P2P at an all time high. This trial, in many respects, parallels the atmosphere surrounding Napster. Again, file-sharing is on the line, the future of P2P is in jeopardy, and victory for either side is a court ruling away.


Let’s consider three possible outcomes of TPB trial – a draw, or a victory for either side. As it stands now, half of the charges against TPB have already been dropped. The Swedish prosecution has tried to pin TPB as directly responsible for copyright infringement by providing .torrent files. However, that aspect of their case had to be dropped as a result of a technicality - .torrent files aren’t copyrighted works. Instead, the entertainment industry is pinning its hope on the ‘making available’ theory – that TPB helps the end user engage in copyright infringement.

Although TPB’s initial victory is enough to stir the public relations pot in their favor, the case is far from finished. The making available theory could stick, and the TPB’s antagonizing logo and legal page could be used against them. If the court is convinced TPB is enabling users to infringe on the copyrights of others, the ownership could be fined, imprisoned, or both.

Even if there was a worst case scenario played out, the result of that circumstance is unknown. TPB’s ownership has stated that even they don’t know the exact location of their server farm – a globally dispersed tracker network that tracks torrent swarms. If this is true, and the court finds they are copyright infringement-enablers, will TPB suddenly disappear? It’s a significant question that may never be answered.

But the bigger picture is clear. BitTorrent, file-sharing, and P2P technology isn’t going anywhere. Even if TPB loses, their ownership thrown in jail, and their server network closed, the absence of the world’s largest tracker won’t injure P2P in the long term. Will there be a period of chaos similar to the period after the loss of Napster? Sure, but looking back, few can argue with the long term benefits of the post-Napster purge.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
BitTorrent :: Trackers/Indexers

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