Pirates!

I’m following the trial against the Swedish torrent site The Pirate Bay with interest. It started in the Swedish court system today, and promises to be interesting, long, hard-fought and policy-defining. There’s no easy way to sum up the trial without making this my longest post so far by a factor of ten, but in SMS form, here is the case of the State of Sweden vs. The Pirate Bay: Site hosting links to partly illegal material charged for assisting crime, but law unclear. Precedent to be set. Also issue: piles of money. It’s likely to go on for at least five years, with guaranteed appeals all the way up to the supreme court from both parties.

What’s interesting is the form of the trial. The Swedish state have seized some of TPB’s servers and are trying to demonstrate that they are the source of the copyright infringements being made. TPB claims they don’t host any of the material, and that the information on their site can be just as easy to find through a simple google search[1]. So far today the prosecution has consisted of the prosecutor searching for a wealth of material and showing how easy it is to download material, with a video made by Swedish police on how to set up torrent downloading from scratch in five minutes. TPB are treating the whole trial as a media spectacle on the part of the Swedish state in order to clam down multinational corporations who want to crack down on filesharing, and have responded by hosting press conferences as well as brass bands playing outside the court room and driving around in their own pirate bus. They call the whole thing a spectrial. So is it a sham, a theatre for the rich and powerful, or a real trial against a dangerous development?

The case has multiple layers and stories: Big Money vs. Robin Hood, information freedom vs. copyright, a sustainable business model vs. consumer greed, unstoppable development vs. putting the brakes on something out of control and more. All of the above? None? For me, the whole issue is difficult. Piracy has clear problems connected to it. It might cause a serious change in how content is produced and funded, if not a total collapse of the culture industry. This may or may not be a good thing. Is the rise of the remix or free content culture worth the loss of big (and often very good) productions? At the same time, I’m guilty of downloading pirated material all the time. Do I know if I had paid for the stuff anyway? No idea, and it’s almost impossible to know for any of the cases.

It’s easy to follow the (spec)trial. Mainstream media have reported on it, the pirates have their own web sites for it, and several people are twittering live from the trial. The wealth of sources and perspectives on the process also marks this as something out of the ordinary. And much more interesting than, say, O.J. Simpson or any other overblown court circuses (circi?).

In other news, real life pirates are being attacked by armed forces off the coast of Somalia. I guess it’s good that they stop this kind of thing, but one (very tiny) part of me thinks there is some cosmic justice in the fact that people who have been ravaged by internal strife and abandoned by the international community take their destiny into their own hands by using the wealth being transported right outside their poor country to improve infrastructure and bring much needed funds to the people living there. Hell, if they weren’t also killing innocent crew members and using most of the money to build palace like homes while giving scraps to the local communities, I might even support them.

[1] Case in point, here’s where you can find the remake of Friday the 13th, out this Friday (of course), on 8 different torrent sites on the first page. There, now I can be sued too…

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One Response

  1. Hahaha!! Great “Case in point”! I love it! Too bad this trial can have harmful consequences for legitimate uses of bittorrent clients. We pointed out a few examples of good uses that will hopefully be left intact over at Magna Techa. Watch out for those Swedish public prosecutors, stsguru!!

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