Update 7:27 a.m. PT: To include news that the Pirate Bay is back online and statement from site's operators.
The Pirate Bay--the BitTorrent tracker revered by file sharers across the globe and reviled by some of the world's biggest entertainment companies--is under siege like never before.
Black Internet, the largest Internet service provider supplying bandwidth to the site, said Monday that a court in Sweden has threatened it with fines unless it discontinued service to Pirate Bay. The site's operators did find an alternative Web connection and got Pirate Bay up and running, though only for a brief period. As the outage dragged on, the site appeared to be in its death throes, prompting people to post messages to Twitter such as "Goodbye Pirate Bay, I'll miss you" and "Rest in peace."
But Pirate Bay's operators have refused to give in and have vowed to bring the file-sharing site back online. Which is what they did. On Tuesday morning The Pirate Bay had returned. The founders took the opportunity to issue a rallying cry to followers by updating one given by Winston Churchill (The entire statement is at the bottom).
"We have, ourselves, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our Internets," the operators said in a statement, "to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone."
Bravado aside, the truth is that The Pirate Bay's future is grim. By all appearances the BitTorrent tracker is on its way to joining Napster, Aimster, and TorrentSpy among once popular but now dead file-sharing services--all of them killed off by the entertainment industries.
In April, a Swedish court ruled that the co-founders were guilty of copyright violations, ordering them to pay $4 million and spend a year in jail. Then, following a proposed acquisition, The Pirate Bay was supposed to evolve into a pay site offering authorized film and music files. But that plan, too, seems to be buckling. Global Gaming Factory X, the software company supposedly trying to acquire The Pirate Bay, is facing its own legal challenges.
Even as fans bid farewell to The Pirate Bay, they've been chattering about which of the other BitTorrent trackers would best fill in for the site. The blog Gizmodo attracted a lot of attention by guiding readers to five Pirate Bay alternatives. In addition, a Pirate Bay user recently made a complete copy of the site and made it available for download at (where else?) The Pirate Bay. Regardless of whether the original Pirate Bay ever reopens, its legacy will endure on countless sites.
That's because--wherever one stands on the issues of file sharing or copyright--as long as films and music can be digitized and there is an open Internet, file sharing will exist. That reality is not lost to the Motion Picture Association of America. A spokeswoman for the film industry's trade group said: "We'll continue to evaluate and take appropriate actions against sites offering unauthorized copies of our member companies' works."
The question is whether any of these clones and wannabes can build the kind of cult following or wield the same influence as The Pirate Bay--they're unlikely to be "game changers," one music industry executive told me, and he's right.
The Pirate Bay's founders did more than just index torrents. To the 20 million who visited the site monthly, co-founders Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, Fredrik Neij, and Gottfried Svartholm Warg are Scandinavian Robin Hoods, who freed the masses to enjoy music and movies and protected them from profiteering conglomerates.
To many artists, the three are little more than thieves who stole their work to line their own pockets.
A gamble for Global Gaming
As popular as The Pirate Bay is, however, users don't seem to have any problems walking away from the version proposed by Global Gaming, which would require a monthly paid subscription. The idea of paying for content is the antithesis of what The Pirate Bay stood for.
And that's just one of the many hurdles confronting Global Gaming, whose chances of actually acquiring the site appear slim.
In June, when Hans Pandeya, Global Gaming's CEO, announced the company's intention to buy The Pirate Bay, the plan was that the site would charge a monthly fee for content and users could lower their charges by contributing hard drive space and bandwidth to the service. If users contributed enough computer resources, then conceivably they could get free access to movies and music.
Global Gaming came under scrutiny last week after regulators in Sweden became concerned about the company's ability to pay for The Pirate Bay. The transaction was supposed to be completed by Thursday but Global Gaming apparently is in serious debt. Company managers have also been accused in the Swedish press of issuing misleading information to the public.
Even if the company is able to come up with the cash to pay for The Pirate Bay, just where it will find the money to pay for content in addition to a new technology platform that Pandeya promised back in June is still a mystery. In 2008, records show the company, which makes software and operates Internet cafes, generated the equivalent of $800,000.
What's remarkable about the brewing controversy is that the alarm bells didn't go off before now. Here's a quick synopsis of what stands in the way of an acquisition:
Peerialism, a Swedish peer-to-peer company that Global Gaming announced it would acquire at the same time as The Pirate Bay, hasn't begun work on building the site's technology platform. Johan Ljungberg, Peerialism's CEO, told CNET on Thursday that Pandeya signed a contract and asked Peerialism to start production work. Two months later, Ljungberg still hasn't started because Pandeya hasn't paid.
Aktietorget, a Swedish stock exchange, halted trading of Global Gaming's shares on Friday and won't allow it to resume until officials are convinced that the company has the money to complete the acquisition of The Pirate Bay. So far, Pandeya has not provided sufficient proof.
Aktietorget is also looking into statements issued by Pandeya. Since Wayne Rosso, the former president of Grokster, quit Global Gaming after working for Pandeya for three weeks, citing questions about Pandeya's character and the financial health of Global Gaming, Pandeya has said numerous times that the money for the acquisition was in place. He also has said that he received an informal $10 million bid for the company, via Rosso, from John Fanning, a co-founder of Napster. Both Rosso and Fanning denied it.
Sweden's Economic Crimes Bureau has launched an investigation to see whether the whole acquisition hoopla wasn't part of a plan to boost the stock price, according to Swedish newspapers.
Pandeya told CNET over the past three days that he has the money to complete the purchase of The Pirate Bay and that he has done nothing wrong. He claims that he and Global Gaming are victims of a conspiracy led by Rosso and Johan Sellstrom, Global Gaming's former chief financial officer who has claimed Pandeya and Global Gaming owe him money.
As for the company's ability to launch on time, Pandeya acknowledged that there are a few glitches.
"I do not know of any project or merger or acquisition that everything ran according to an extraordinary detailed plan," Pandeya said in an e-mail to CNET on Friday. "We have done incredibly well despite a bunch of losers that are making a noise. Well, these losers can try what they want. Too bad it is not going to work."
Statement released Tuesday from The Pirate Bay.
We have, ourselves, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our Internets, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
Even though large parts of Internets and many old and famous trackers have fallen or may fall into the grip of the (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and all the odious apparatus of MPAA rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the ef-nets and darknets, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Internets, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the baywords.org, we shall fight on the /. and on the digg, we shall fight in the courts; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, the Internets or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Anon Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in Cerf's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
The Pirate Bay Crew - Now until needed.