Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TPB Raid - 5 Years On, Still Going Strong

It's now been 5 years since the Pirate Bay was raided by Swedish police, after extensive 'urging' by US trade groups and politicians. 5 years of wrangling to take down that bastion of piracy, that cocker-of-snoots to the influential and rich, and that distributor of torrent files and magnet links (and NOTHING ELSE!)

When it comes to major events in the tech world, one of the major ones is The Pirate Bay's raid. On the morning of May 31st, 2006, dozens of police officers entered the PRQ data center and seized servers, hardware, and even blocked up CCTV cameras, as they attempted to shut down The Pirate Bay (TPB).

There is not much that compares in scope, when you consider that the Swedish Justice Minister was involved. That it took place because of the direct urging of the US White House (meaning the President) and that more officers than you'd get at any other event (except large public order policing, such as a football match) were involved only makes it more remarkable.

The icing on the cake is that the site spent very little time offline, which the TPB crew were quick to point out in a blogpost, saying

Just some stats... ... here are some reasons why TPB is down sometimes - and how long it usually takes to fix:Tiamo gets *very* drunk and then something crashes: 4 days
Anakata gets a really bad cold and noone is around: 7 days
The US and Swedish gov. forces the police to steal our servers: 3 days
.. yawn.

It wasn't just TPB's server that were taken though. The newly formed Piratpartiet (Pirate Party - more about them in a minute) lost some servers, as did many other businesses. A long time friend, Ben, talked to one business owner, Christopher Adams of Gameswitch, who said “Our hardware was severed from the internet at approximately 12 noon Swedish time today without notice or explanation and currently is believed to be in the possession of Stockholm Police, although this cannot be confirmed", adding “As a result of this seemingly irrational and disproportionate move by police, our entire business, in effect, has also been seized.

And 5 years on, the case is still ongoing. At a first trial, dubbed 'Spectrial' in February 09, it was almost like watching a comedic farce as it proceeded, but ended in April with a year of jail time for each of the 4 accused, and fines totalling $3,620,000.

In September 2010, the appeal started, delayed by claims of biased judges handpicked for the case. While the hand-picking of the judges was acknowledged (picked because they belonged to a pro-copyright association) it was ruled they weren't biased by that. At the end of the appeal, the jail time was reduced, and fines/damages were increased.

So now it goes on to the more important appeal, which is still yet to happen. In the mean time, the site still goes on, as it did before, but now with a vastly greater public image, thanks mainly to the case. So in it's attempts to stop the site, it's only made it bigger, spreading publicity.

But what of other consequences?

The biggest one has been the emergence of Pirate Politics. When the raid happened, it sparked something in people, and they went upset with what they saw. Some get angry and rant, others show their immaturity, and try and deface or take down websites. Many though, got together and started to form political parties, based on the Swedish Piratpartiet.

Suddenly, instead of just one small party that had been formed 6 months earlier, there were now 20 around the world; Australia, US, France, Germany, Netherlands, the UK, Austria, etc. It was an explosion of parties, and all made possible because of the raid.

Piratpartiet Membership (source)
* = TPB raid
**** = Spectrial 
It gets better though. Shortly after the Spectrial, was the European Parliament elections. Buoyed by the strength of feeling over the trial, including the allegations of bias, and what were considered overly-harsh sentences, membership in Piratpartiet skyrocketed. Membership rose elsewhere too, but nothing like in Sweden. This translated to a bit over 7% in the national votes for the party, giving them one seat (held by Christian Engstrom) and a second if the Lisbon Treaty was ratified (which it was later that year, but it's holder, Amelia Andersdotter, has yet to be seated).

Without the raid, there would be no Pirate Party outside Sweden, and it's very unlikely that they would have gained their seats. There are now over 40 elected representatives across Europe from the City Council level, to the international European Parliament, and it's all thanks to that raid.

So as we look back on the past 5 years, we note that the aim of the raid, to take down The Pirate Bay, has totally failed. The site is still going, stronger now than it was then. It's also galvanized the actions of many, pushing them into a common collective to work directly at a political level, to oppose the lobby groups, and their interests.

When you look at the actions, their intentions, and the actual effects, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn. That the raid was probably the stupidest thing they could have done. It's produced very little to their benefit, while provoking a lot of action against them directly. It really might have been better had they not bothered with it, and let it die of apathy. It's certainly hard to see what action they could have taken that would have made things worse for them.

The big question is, What will it take to actually shut down TPB for good? If a police raid, 5 years, and 2 trials won't, what will?

(doodles from the Pirate Bay's doodle archive)

1 comment:

  1. elected officials over the world is much higher. Only in Germany there's 48 elected local politicians...