What can the Pirate Bay do?
There’s legal recourse like an appeal, but
frankly those attempting to neuter the site have effectively infinite resources
in terms of legal representation. Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t require any
great expenditure or skill to keep the site alive while moving its IP around in
a classic three-cups conjurer’s sleight of hand.
Why am I suggesting it won’t work?
Historical precedent suggests that DNS-level blocking doesn’t actually stop
people finding an interest location.
In February 2008, the Danish courts ordered
a regional ISP to block access at domain level, so that the population of that
country couldn’t access torrents on the site.
A week later, it reported that traffic
originating within Denmark for The Pirate Bay actually increased by 12%. What
the high-profile case actually achieved was a free marketing campaign for The
Pirate Bay and not a shutdown of any appreciable type.
How do people find the site if they’ve been
blocked from obtaining the IP through the DNS servers? These days, people have
learned to circumvent DNS foolery by using the OpenDNS service, or some have
even constructed their own DNS databases.
Okay, but there are other ways to obstruct
a site from access, such as IP address blocking by routers, but will that
actually work? Er, no, not really, because it’s really easy to change the IP,
and you can even retain the same domain name.
But then even if these things would work,
and I can assure you they won’t, there are deeper possibilities that would be
One of these would be to create an
underground network, something the Pirate Bay has suggested it’s considering
As the torrent was a major leap in the way
that files could be distributed, it’s entirely possible to create entirely new
linkages between those looking for data and those that have it. What The Pirate
Bay is hinting at in its statements are ‘Magnets’ or, as they’re also known, ‘trackerless’
The original torrent technology worked by a
user downloading a torrent file that included a reference to a server, to which
all the people accessing that file are connected, therefore allowing them to
exchange portions of the file. Magnets works in a totally different way, where
the torrent contains the seed of a calculation (the hash) that the server
processes and then sends back the data to the client through the link. Once
that’s happened, the client is independent, and there is no easy web of
connected IPs to track who downloaded what. Those that use clients like
uTorrent already have a means for downloaders to locate others downloading the
same file: it’s called DHT (Distributed Hash Table). This has been around for a
while and provides a means for clients to locate others without the tracker
server, eliminating the need for The Pirate Bay, for example, to be there
constantly for downloads to work.
The third element in this unstoppable
download architecture is PEX (Peer Exchange), which works very much like one of
those business networking sites. As each peer connects to another to download,
it passes on information about the other peers that it’s connected to, creating
a vast dynamic catalogue of peer data, which can be traversed without reference
to a central server.
What’s important to know about all this
technology is that it has some weaknesses, like the torrent or another means of
initialisation must still include a direct reference to a location that can
calculate the hash, and that could be blocked, but the thinking behind
DNS-level blocking is so far behind this strategy that it’s bound to fail.
Ultimately, I think The Pirate Bay could
become an entirely virtual location, where the torrent data it holds is hosted
in an increasingly subtle and convert manner, and the client systems are
increasingly talking to each other rather than conveniently linking to a
central, and therefore vulnerable source.
Soon, if they’re not already, torrent files
will be redundant. By ditching them, entirely The Pirate Bay will not only
remove a direct means for those wanting to prove copyright infringement links
to client, but the size of the site will reduce in size dramatically, to the
point where numerous copies could populate the internet, and use less bandwidth
and be much more difficult, if not practically impossible, to block.
I’m not saying that The Pirate Bay won’t be
shut down at some point, but saying it’s blocked in the UK is like suggesting
that the prohibition of the 1930s ended the consumption of alcohol in the US.
Intention doesn’t equal achievement, and the lobbying of big business in the
USA and Europe won’t actually stop copyright infringement across the globe.
The list of countries that already block
The Pirate Bay is long, and yet it’s the 80th most visited web location on the
planet when at least a quarter of the world’s population is technically unable
to access it. There’s a mismatch between those figures, and it’s further proof
that blocking the site will have little or no impact.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting
bored with these games, because they’re hardly a productive effort to resolve
these issues. The content owners bite the politicians and judiciary, who, woken
from their slumber, have a website blocked as almost a reflex response. The
content owners, or more pointedly their self-appointed representatives, make as
much publicity as they can about how the fight against piracy is being won, and
those that download movies and music shuffle along to the next best
alternative. Whatever the rhetoric, it’s not like it’s achieved anything, and
despite being reviled throughout the content industry for the past decade, The
Pirate Bay is still going strong, and no legal umbrage a UK court, or any
other, is likely to change that soon. It understands the internet, and those in
government don’t, so it’s their backyard that this fight is taking place in.
The copyright issue, exists because the
content providers didn’t embrace new technology when it confronted their old business
models, and the general consensus among the downloading public is there are
crimes much worse than downloading in the greater scheme of things.
When Disney animators created Lady &
The Tramp in 1955, it quite reasonably expected that by now it would be in
the public domain, but film industry lobbying has had US law altered twice
since to make sure it isn’t. With a track record like, that the content
providers are going to have a hard time eliciting any sympathy from the buying
public, who’ve been sold the same products numerous times in half a dozen
different formats. If you haven’t got it yet, film and music industry, the
buying public doesn’t see you as their friend, so why expect them to act like
The Pirate Bay has been accused of being a
site that facilitates copyright infringement, as perceived by legislators in
the US and Europe. That’s almost certain, but then on that yardstick surely
every search engine that links to it is an accessory, and even those
publications and news aggregators that followed this story are also helping
facilitate copyright infringement? Where is the line, because maybe just by
talking about this I’m contributing negatively? Should the first rule of
‘Downloading Club’ be, we don’t talk about it?
In the end I’m not entirely sure what we
can take from this, other than it represents the lack of any real plan to
address the issue, where those aggrieved now resort to symbolic gestures rather
than doing anything constructive. It’s all about ‘messages’ and the one that
they’re trying to send is that piracy is bad, and those that do it will be
disciplined. However, what is actually happening is that they’re advertising to
those people who didn’t know where to get their movies, TV, software and music
where to find them, and they’ve also demonstrated that these facilities are
unlikely to disappear overnight, because they have protection in numbers and
resilience in depth. The term ‘counterproductive’ just doesn’t seem sufficient
is describing what’s been happening so far.
Nothing has changed. The content owners
will still whine about their fantasy missing billions, The Pirate Bay or its
shadowy offspring will still exist, and people will still download things.
It’s worth noting that in October 2011 a UK
court injunction was sought and given against Usenet indexer Newzbin 2, and BT
blocked access. It was later revealed that BT customers worked around the block
very quickly, and the block was entirely ineffective.
I’m sure some complete numpty from the film
industry will now herald this as the start of a new era where distributed
copyrighted material will be banished from the internet, but that’s more of a
fantasy than any Hollywood blockbuster that’s likely to be released this
Places The Pirate Bay is blocked
People’s Republic of China