Pirate Bay Bloodied but Unbowed
07-06-06 Mr X
By Quinn Norton
The once Swedish-based Bittorent site The Pirate Bay claims the problems many visitors have noticed on the resurrected piracy hub are the result of a glut of new users, rather than recent troubles with police.
This week The Pirate Bay reappeared on the internet just three days after a police raid shut down the site, and sparked street protests in Sweden and intense international interest. The reborn site -- newly relocated to servers in the Netherlands -- appeared much as it was before the police action, but included a mocking message for the authorities, and a revamped logo that shows the site's trademark pirate ship hurling a cannon ball at the Hollywood sign.
But it's not all smooth sailing for The Pirate Bay. Users have noticed problems accessing torrents on the site, leading to speculation that traffic is being filtered, or data is being lost.
Not so, says "Peter," one of the three Pirate Bay administrators.
"The database problem is actually that we have so many new users and the current hardware setup isn't tuned perfectly," he told Wired News in an IM interview. "It takes a while to get everything right in a complex system like The Pirate Bay.... We've had some 404 problems with torrent-downloading, but that is due to overload and some bugs in our software. They will be fixed in a couple of days."
Peter says site administrators had backup copies of the website and its contents when police carted off The Pirate Bay's servers in the May 31 raid.
Peter managed to partially repair the database on the fly during the interview, and some previously broken torrents became available. But many were still returning error messages Tuesday morning. Other parts of the site unrelated to the torrents are also spotty: The submission forms, and the images and style sheets that control the look and feel of the site, were loading only after long delays, or not at all.
The Pirate Bay has a longstanding history of defiance to international copyright enforcers, most clearly exemplified by its habit of posting and publicly mocking take-down notices received from content owners. The defiance follows the politics of the Swedish anti-copyright organization Piratbyran, which founded The Pirate Bay in 2004, but has since gone it own way. Copyright minimalists, Piratbyran and The Pirate Bay seek abolition of most intellectual property law.
The site administrators believe that what they are doing is currently legal under Swedish law, because they don't host the pirated content themselves, only the pointers that let people get the files.
"That argument would not work in the U.S., because they are promoting piracy," says David Hayes, chairman of the intellectual property group at the law firm Fenwick and West. "That's secondary liability, where a provider is held responsible for the illegal actions of its users."
But the site isn't directly subject to U.S. law, and "they seem to think there is no secondary liability under Swedish copyright law," Hayes says. "As far as I know that issue hasn't been tested in the Swedish courts."
Such a test case was likely inevitable, and The Pirate Bay correctly anticipated that it would be at the center of the squall, says Peter. That's why he and his colleagues were ready at a moment's notice to arrange server space in the Netherlands. "Well, we're not stupid," he says. "We kind of figured that they would come, sooner or later, to test everything in court, so we had backup plans."
Despite the raid, Peter says he doesn't expect any of his group to face criminal charges in Sweden. He doesn't know if Dutch authorities are likely to stage a similar assault on the new servers, but insists the group is preparing still more contingencies. "We're ... setting up sites in other countries still."
Given their public bravado, The Pirate Bay's proprietors may be incapable of bending to even the sternest pressure from copyright holders.
Peter describes the last few days as exhausting, but expresses confidence that The Pirate Bay will outlast efforts to shut it down. Eventually, he'd even like to bring it back home to Sweden. "We have people willing to help out with the work, so it's no problem if they start chasing us around. The internet is bigger than the MPAA."
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