Pirate Bay crew gets the hook

Despite big fines and prison time, the Pirate Bay four remain defiant. And even if Hollywood manages to sink these Bit Torrent trackers, there's an entire fleet waiting to take their place.

Pirate Bay - one ship in an ocean of digital piracy.

Pirate Bay - one ship in an ocean of digital piracy.

Somali pirates aren't the only scurvy dogs who took one in the temples recently. Last week a court in Stockholm found the four owners of The Pirate Bay guilty of aiding and abetting copyright violators and sentenced them to a year in the pokey and fines of 30 million Swedish Kronor (about US$3.6 million). That's a wee bit short of the 117 million Kronor ($13 million) the record companies were seeking, but still about 30 million more than TPBers are willing to pay.

On hearing about the verdict, spokespirate and convictee Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi scribbled an IOU for the amount and said that was as close to a check as the recording industry was likely to see.

"Even if I had money, I would rather burn everything I own and not even give them the final dust from the burning," said Sunde.

No matter how you feel about Bit Torrent, file sharing, or copyright violators, you have to admire their chutzpah.

In a nice bit of irony, the news about the decision was leaked to Sunde early, which he immediately shared on Twitter:

"According to leaked information from the court we lost (got the news last night). Trustworthy source as well..... Really, it's a bit LOL. It used to be only movies, now even verdicts are out before the official release."

The music industry is certainly well chuffed about it. Music dinosaur legend Sir Paul McCartney declared the verdict "fair" [audio]: "If you get on a bus you've got to pay. And I think it's fair, you should pay your ticket."

(Anybody out there want to hazard a guess as to the last time the Fab One bought a bus ticket? My money is on 1961.)

Hacktavistas felt a tad differently about the outcome. They launched a DDoS attack against Web sites for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the prosecutors involved in the case, according to The Register. And in Stockholm, hundreds of peg-legged, parrot-shouldered supporters took to the streets in protest.

What you think of this verdict probably depends on whether you think The Pirate Bay is akin to the original Napster -- a central hub without which those file swappers couldn't exist -- or more like a specialized version of Google that merely guides you to the Bit Torrents already in the wild. (Obviously, the court decided on the former.) In either case, the decision does nothing to stop The Pirate Bay itself, now located outside Swedish jurisdiction and still happily chugging away, as are dozens of other Torrent trackers.

PC World's JR Raphael sums it up nicely:

"...unlike Napster, The Pirate Bay and other modern peer-to-peer-oriented networks are far less centralized and simple to shut down. And, even if The Pirate Bay itself were somehow to be shuttered, there are countless other comparable tracking services all over the world. Could they all be targeted and taken down? It's highly unlikely."

Of course, TPB will appeal. Sunde's take on the whole thing (again via Twitter): It's all just a big show.

"Stay calm - Nothing will happen to TPB, us personally or file sharing what so ever. This is just a theater for the media."

And what fine theater it is, too. Let's hope it gets a nice extended run. Tech news has gotten so stale lately; there's nothing like a few pirates to liven things up.

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Robert X. Cringely

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