The Pirate Bay raid

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"Pirate Independence Day", The Pirate Bay logo on 31 May, 2008

The Pirate Bay raid took place on 31 May 2006 in Stockholm, when The Pirate Bay, a Swedish website that indexes torrent files, was raided by Swedish police, causing it to go offline for three days. Upon reopening, the site's number of visitors more than doubled;[1] the increased popularity attributed to greater exposure through the media coverage. The raid, alleged by Pirate Bay to be politically motivated and under pressure from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA),[2] was reported as a success by the MPAA in the immediate aftermath, but with the website being restored within days and the raising of the debate in Swedish culture, The Pirate Bay and other commentators considered the raid "highly unsuccessful".[3] On 31 January 2008, Swedish prosecutors filed charges against four of the individuals behind The Pirate Bay for "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws".[4][5]

Contents

Execution

At roughly 11:00 am UTC on 31 May 2006, a major raid against The Pirate Bay and people involved with the website took place, prompted by allegations of copyright violations and formally ordered by judge Tomas Norström, who later presided on the 2009 trial. Some 65 police officers participated in the raid, shutting down the website and confiscating its servers, as well as all other servers hosted by The Pirate Bay's Internet service provider, PRQ. The company is owned by two operators of The Pirate Bay. Three people—Gottfrid Svartholm, Mikael Viborg, and Fredrik Neij—were held by the police for questioning, but were released later in the evening. Mikael Viborg, the legal advisor to The Pirate Bay, was arrested at his apartment, brought in for questioning, forced to submit a DNA sample and had his electronic equipment seized.[6]

All servers in the server room were seized, including those running the website of Piratbyrån, an independent organization fighting for file sharing rights, as well as servers unrelated to The Pirate Bay or other file sharing activities, including a Russian opposition news agency.[7] In addition, equipment such as hardware routers, switches, blank CDs, and faxes were also seized. The Danish documentary Good Copy Bad Copy (2007) includes closed-circuit television camera footage of the raid, and interviews with Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij about the raid and its aftermath.

Political issues

Swedes protesting against the police raid during the pro-piracy demonstration on June 3, 2006

The Swedish public broadcast network, Sveriges Television, cited unnamed sources claiming that the raid was prompted by political pressure from the United States, which the Swedish government denied. Sveriges Television claimed that the Swedish government was threatened by the World Trade Organization with trade sanctions unless action was taken against The Pirate Bay.[8]

There have been claims of politicians pressuring other government agencies to take action in connection with this allegation, which is unconstitutional in Sweden.[3] A letter titled "Re: The Pirate Bay" from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to Dan Eliasson, State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry of Justice, was dated two months before the raid and hinted at trade reprisals ("It is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation as a place where utter lawlessness is tolerated") and urged him to "exercise your influence to urge law enforcement officers in Sweden to take much needed action against The Pirate Bay".[9]

The MPAA wrote in a press release: "Since filing a criminal complaint in Sweden in November 2004, the film industry has worked vigorously with Swedish and U.S. government officials in Sweden to shut this illegal website down." MPAA CEO Dan Glickman also stated, "Intellectual property theft is a problem for film industries all over the world and we are glad that the local government in Sweden has helped stop The Pirate Bay from continuing to enable rampant copyright theft on the Internet."[10] The MPAA press release set forth its justification for the raid and claimed that there were three arrests; however, the individuals were not actually arrested, only held for questioning. The release also reprinted John G. Malcolm's allegation that The Pirate Bay was making money from the distribution of copyrighted material, a criticism denied by the Pirate Bay.

Aftermath

After the raid, The Pirate Bay displayed a "SITE DOWN" message confirming that Swedish police had executed search warrants for breach of copyright law or assisting such a breach. The BitTorrent community quickly spread the announcement across online news sites, blogs, and discussion forums. The closure message initially caused some confusion because on 1 April 2005 The Pirate Bay had posted a similar message, stating that they were permanently down due to a supposed raid by the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau and IFPI, as a prank. Piratbyrån set up a temporary news blog to inform the public about the incident.[11]

Logo shown on The Pirate Bay homepage after the May 2006 police raid in Sweden, written as "Hollywood'.

On 1 June 2006, it was reported on The Pirate Bay website that it would be up and fully functional within a day or two. As promised, The Pirate Bay was back up and operational by the end of the next day, their logo now depicting the pirate ship firing cannon balls at the Hollywood sign. The header displayed the name "The Police Bay". The next logo featured the pirate ship as a stylized phoenix, in reference to the servers rising up again after the raid.

The reincarnated website was, as stated by "Peter" in the Chaosradio International interview with Tim Pritlove,[12] running on servers located in the Netherlands. As of 3 June, the search function was not available. It was possible to browse for .torrent files manually and download them, but attempts at downloading .torrent files for most copyrighted materials gave 404 Not Found errors. On 5 June 2006, The Pirate Bay went down, citing database server problems. It was back up the next day, but with limited availability. The Pirate Bay attributed these issues to increased traffic resulting from the recent publicity, and promised that the website would soon be running smoothly again. TPB thereafter fixed a number of minor software bugs and brought new servers online to handle the increased traffic load.[13] By 9 June, the website was once again fully functional. On 14 June 2006, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that The Pirate Bay was back in Sweden due to "pressure from the Department of Justice [in the Netherlands]."[14]

During the afternoon of 1 June, again on 3 June, and again in the morning of 4 June, the website of the Swedish police[15] went down due to high load. It was speculated that this was a retaliatory denial-of-service attack in response to the TPB raid. According to a Swedish article in the IT news website IDG, the downtime resulted from many requests for a specific url—which had been widely circulated via IRC chatrooms and internet forums.[16] According to the article, the purpose was to "show what you think of the police's behaviour."[17]

Demonstrations against the police action took place on 3 June 2006 in Gothenburg and Stockholm, organized by Piratbyrån and the Pirate Party in collaboration with the Liberal Youth, Young Greens and Young Left parties. There were no reports of violence. Approximately 500–600 people showed up at the Stockholm protest and about 300 at the Gothenburg protest.

Steal This Film poster mockup

The Pirate Bay is considered part of an international anti-copyright movement.[18] The documentary Steal This Film was produced and distributed (via BitTorrent) in the months following the raid. In the words of its speakers, it aimed to present the other side of the debate, until that time dominated by the media industry. The film was made available free, as donationware.

Since the raid, Pirate Bay stated their disaster recovery plan of "a few days" worked correctly, but that they are now moving to redundant servers both in Belgium and Russia, and an aim of a few hours restoration time, should the servers be disrupted again. Following the raid the number of Pirate Bay users grew from 1 million to 2.7 million. The number of peers grew almost 5 times, from 2.5 million to 12 million.[1] It has been reported that the Pirate Bay claims more than 5 million active users. Internet traffic ranker Alexa.com ranks Pirate Bay as the 113th most popular website in the world.[18]

Charges

In May 2007, prosecutor Håkan Roswall made it clear that he intended to press charges against the administrators of The Pirate Bay.[19] In mid-January 2008 Peter Sunde told Ars Technica: "I'm quite sure we won't be convicted anyhow" and "[If we are], we'll just appeal all the way to the European Union court. So in five years time this might be settled."[20]

On 31 January 2008, Pirate Bay operators Fredrik Neij, Per Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström were charged with "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws."[4] If convicted, the defendants face up to two years in prison and SEK 1.2 million in restitution.[21] Pirate Bay's legal advisor, Mikael Viborg, has stated that because torrent files and trackers merely point to content, the site's activities are legal under Swedish law. Magnus Martensson, legal advisor for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), says the website is damaging to industry and liable for at least contributory copyright infringement.[22]

Allegations

Soon after the police investigation of The Pirate Bay finished in 2008, the lead investigator, Jim Keyzer, according to Keyzer's since-deleted Facebook profile, left the police force briefly to work for MPAA member studio Warner Brothers.[23][24] Sydsvenskan reported that Keyzer had already been working for the studio while the investigation into The Pirate Bay was still open.[25] An April 2008 Pirate Party press release called the potential conflict of interest a "bribing scandal".[26] Piratbyrån wrote about the allegations:

If the trial wasn't already just a political theatre, this clearly shows that this is not a fair and balanced trial. The copyright industry stands no chance in an objective legal judgement and therefore have to cheat their way forward. Their legitimacy has hit rock bottom[27]

These matters have not been resolved in court and even though Keyzer was scheduled to be a witness in the Pirate Bay trial, he was not called.[28]

References

  1. ^ a b "Should The Pirate Bay thank MPAA for its cult following? | Startup Meme". Startupmeme.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. http://web.archive.org/web/20080719063921/http://startupmeme.com/should-piratebay-thank-mpaa-for-its-cult-following/. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  2. ^ Steal This Film.
  3. ^ a b "The Pirate Bay Not Impressed by Announced Prosecution". TorrentFreak. 2007-05-04. http://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-not-impressed-by-announced-prosecution/. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
  4. ^ a b Kravets, David (2008-01-31). "Pirate Bay Future Uncertain After Operators Busted | Threat Level from Wired.com". Blog.wired.com. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  5. ^ Larsson, Linus (2008-01-31). "Charges filed against the Pirate Bay four". Computer Sweden. http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.143146. Retrieved 2008-02-01.
  6. ^ "Blog". Mikael Viborg. 2006-06-01. http://viborginternational.blogspot.com/2006/06/operation-take-down.html. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  7. ^ "Homepage". The Pirate Bay. 2006-06-01. http://www.thepiratebay.org/. Retrieved 2006-06-01. "The police officers were allowed access to the racks where the Pirate Bay servers and other servers are hosted. All servers in the racks were clearly marked as to which sites run on each. The police took down all servers in the racks, including the non-commercial site Piratbyrån"
  8. ^ "USA-hot bakom fildelningsrazzia". Dn.se. http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?a=554160. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  9. ^ "Pirate MPA". TorrentFreak. http://torrentfreak.com//images/pirate_mpa.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  10. ^ "Swedish authorities sink Pirate Bay" (Press release). Motion Picture Association of America. 2006-05-31. http://www.mpaa.org/press_releases/2006_05_31.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  11. ^ "Piratbyrån - temporär nyhetsförmedling". Piratbyran.blogspot.com. http://piratbyran.blogspot.com/. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  12. ^ "CRI009 The Pirate Bay - Chaosradio Podcast Network". Chaosradio.ccc.de. http://chaosradio.ccc.de/cri009.html. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  13. ^ "Pirate Bay Bloodied But Unbowed". Wired.com. 2006-06-06. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  14. ^ "The Pirate Bay tillbaka i Sverige | SvD" (in Swedish). Svd.se. 2006-06-14. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. http://web.archive.org/web/20080622141302/http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/fildelning/artikel_327706.svd. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  15. ^ "Startsida - Polisen". Polisen.se. http://www.polisen.se/inter/nodeid=1461&pageversion=1.html. Retrieved 2008-09-28.[dead link]
  16. ^ "Polisens hemsida utsatt för överbelastningsattack - uppdaterad - IDG.se". Idg.se. http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.66002. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  17. ^ "Regeringens hemsida kraschade". Dn.se. 2008-09-28. http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=147&a=549941&previousRenderType=6. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  18. ^ a b Sarno, David (2007-04-29). "The Internet sure loves its outlaws - Los Angeles Times". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  19. ^ Williams, Chris (2007-11-13). "Prosecutor sets date for Pirate Bay showdown". The Register. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/13/pirate_bay_charges_dates/. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
  20. ^ "Swedish prosecutors dump 4,000 legal docs on The Pirate Bay". Arstechnica.com. http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080114-swedish-prosecutors-dump-4000-legal-docs-on-the-pirate-bay.html. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  21. ^ "Pirate Bay hit with legal action". BBC News. 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  22. ^ Harrison, Ann (2006-03-13). "The Pirate Bay: Here to Stay?". Wired. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  23. ^ "Polis som utredde TPB-fallet börjar jobba på Warner Bros. | Kopit". Kopit.se. http://kopit.se/2008/04/18/polis-som-uttradde-tpb-fallet-borjar-jobba-pa-warner-bros/. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  24. ^ "Slashdot | "Judicial Scandal" In Pirate Bay Case". News.slashdot.org. http://news.slashdot.org/news/08/04/18/1413249.shtml. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  25. ^ Kuprijanko, Alexander (2008-06-04). "Åter från Warner till polisjobbet". Sydsvenskan. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  (Swedish)
  26. ^ "PRESSMEDDELANDE: Mutskandal i Pirate Bay-målet - UD bör protestera" (in Swedish). Piratpartiet. 2008-04-18. http://www.piratpartiet.se/nyheter/pressmeddelande_mutskandal_i_pirate_bay_malet_ud_bor_protestera. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  27. ^ "Chief police investigator in Pirate Bay trial employed by the copyright industry". The Pirate Bay. 2008-04-18. http://static.thepiratebay.org/pm/20080418_eng.txt. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  28. ^ Zachariasson, Helena (2009-02-27). "Åklagaren återkallar vittnen i Pirate Bay-rättegången". PC för alla (in Swedish) (IDG). 

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