The Pirate Bay – Pioneer of the File-Sharing Generation

1125666854Up until recently, I wasn’t too knowledgeable on The Pirate Bay, as admittedly I hardly ever use the site, having preferred the newer Kickass Torrents file-sharing site.  However, I’m sure by now everyone has heard of The Pirate Bay – the largest file-sharing site on the planet with over a billion views per month and the focal point of much controversy surrounding breach of copyright laws and various other legal difficulties.   Be that as it may, The Pirate Bay has been around for a decade and continues to grow strong  So why the sudden interest in a service I don’t use?

I have an insatiable interest in learning and technology, so when I came across the documentary film – TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard, I owed it to myself to discover more about this infamous site.  I have no intention of discussing the inner workings behind The Pirate Bay so if the subject interests you then check out the film here.  The Pirate Bay has its roots in Sweden and was founded by Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde.  The general consensus was, as the site’s servers were in Sweden, The Pirate Bay was exempt from America’s laws on copyright and intellectual properties, of course this wasn’t the case and all three founders found themselves embroiled in a lengthy court case.

1123666955The one aspect of the film that I found to be the most interesting (and perhaps distressing), was the amount of time and effort placed onto the court case, the length and resources at which America and Sweden (among others) went to in order to try to convict The Pirate Bay is worrisome.  I say worrisome because it was like watching a trial for America’s most wanted, it’s my opinion that the various law agencies need to reevaluate their priorities.  So much time and effort is being exhausted on a file-sharing issue when there are real threats in the world like human-trafficking and terrorism.  It seems that the older generation fail to realize that as technology changes so do people.  We live in a culture fueled by a need for free information, social media and file-sharing.  Due to this ‘pirate culture’, the film and music industry need to understand that if they want people to buy their products then they need to increase their value.  Increasing the value doesn’t mean increase the price, it means make the product more lucrative for consumers.  The gaming industry has the right idea, sure I can download a cracked version of Killzone 3 but if I wanted that limited edition Helghast mask then I’d have to purchase the game legally (as I did).

File-sharing has become something of a cultural phenomenon and the growing advances in technology make sharing data all the more easier.  File-sharing is usually associated with illicit downloads and while that may be, when you consider that torrent clients can even be installed onto a user’s phone, one needs to embrace the fact that file-sharing is ingrained in our society as much as any other cultural activity.  Another thing that interested me was the idea that the founders themselves were making millions off of The Pirate Bay and that they were an organized and well-funded entity.  However, the fact is that The Pirate Bay founders are just a group of average guys, with a love for technology and a desire to create the largest file-sharing site ever conceived.  The Pirate Bay is funded by advertisements and merchandise, so despite what the authorities think, Gottfrid and co are not the multimillionaire villains they’re perceived to be, especially when you factor in the server and maintenance costs involved in running something like The Pirate Bay.

So yes, in the eyes of the law, The Pirate Bay is an illicit enterprise, and while Gottfrid is indeed imprisoned at this moment (most likely held for his drug usage and other hacking related crimes), file-sharing lives on, so much so that Gottfrid implemented such apps as the PirateBrowser (already downloaded 2.5 million times since its release in August last year) – software designed to circumvent censorship, and is already working on a successor.  In the end it’s all about perspective, when you consider the lengths at which certain software (games mostly) goes to in order to ‘protect itself’ and actually be functional (online validation, mandatory internet connection, DRM protocols and so forth), then it’s no wonder that people have taken to ‘illicit’ file-sharing in order to play the latest games or watch their favourite television series.  In closing, I think that if companies made their product more valuable then they might very well see a decline in file-sharing, then again, there are those who reckon that file-sharing actually helps the industry so who can really say?

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