Transcription performed by Leah Hervoly www.leahtranscribes.com
JACK: I’m honestly confused on what pirating music actually is. When I had CDs, for example, I could loan out a CD to my friend and that was legal, but I wasn’t allowed to make a copy of that CD and loan the copies out. Apparently I only purchased a license to listen to it myself, but what if that CD got scratched, lost, or broken? I bought the license to listen to it, right? So therefore if it got scratched, I should be able to download it and listen to it because I still have the license, right? Yeah, no, that’s illegal. Or, let’s say I go into iTunes and buy a song in digital form, like an MP3. Do I have the right to let my friends borrow it just like I did with CDs? I think if they actually take my ability away to play that MP3 then it is legal, so if I give them a hard drive or that’s the only copy of the MP3 I have and it’s on there, then that’s okay, but no, no, no, there’s no way I’m loaning my only MP3 out to my friend on a hard drive. I learned my lesson from that scratched CD; I’m backing up all my music in multiple places so that I don’t lose it. So, if I loan out an MP3, I’m only gonna loan out a copy of that which now means I’m making copies and giving them out. Or what if I’m just totally done with the songs I’ve downloaded and paid for, like MP3s I bought from iTunes or Amazon? Can I resell those? Like, is there a used MP3 marketplace somewhere? No, a judge has ruled that’s illegal, too. So, it looks like the music industry has really failed to adapt to the digital age when it comes to copyright and they have faced many fierce opponents in this battle. One of their biggest rivals has been The Pirate Bay and this battle fascinates me, so let’s get into it. Oh, and in this episode there are a few swear words, so expect them to jump out here and there. If you’d rather not listen to bad language, well, you’ve been warned.
(INTRO): [INTRO MUSIC] These are true stories from the dark side of the internet. I’m Jack Rhysider. This is Darknet Diaries. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]
SINGER: [MUSIC] Oh, I come from the days of The Pirate Bay when we would torrent and leech all day. The MP3s and MKVs but I always kept clear of the .exes. Soon, may the ISP come to bring us news of copyright scum. One day, when downloading is done, we’ll take our leave and go.
JACK: So, who started this thing?
PETER: Not really sure.
PETER: That’s a simple answer. We were this group of people and we were in an IRC channel. There were hackers, there were philosophers, there were engineers, everything you can imagine. We didn’t agree on things; we just agreed on internet is interesting, it’s fun, and we can’t let companies decide what’s gonna go on. So, we don’t really know who started The Pirate Bay. It was kind of a group effort. We don’t really know who came up with this topic to even discuss. We don’t remember who made the logo.
JACK: In this story we’re talking about The Pirate Bay, the largest file torrenting index probably ever. Basically, it’s a search engine which you could type in the name of any song or movie and it would help you find a pirated version of that and connect you with the people who have it, so you can download it from them if you want. This is Peter, one of the co-founders of The Pirate Bay.
PETER: So, I’m Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi and in 2000 – early 2000s, I was part of starting The Pirate Bay which is a somewhat-known file-sharing service.
JACK: Yeah, while it’s not really clear who started it, it eventually got picked up by three people in Sweden to run the site; Gottfrid, Fredrik, and Peter.
PETER: As a group, we were really – I think we were really bizarre because we are on three different political spectrums. We could not be in the same room together. We would start fighting but we all agreed on the value of the internet and freedom of information and kind of the equal access to information. So, kind of whatever your view is, if you’re left wing, if you’re right wing, ultra libertarian, whatever you want to call yourself, we all need a basis where we can – that we can agree upon which would be access to information. Otherwise, you can’t make educated decisions and I think that’s where we kind of – we agreed on that and nothing else and I think that’s also very powerful that we didn’t agree on [00:05:00] anything else, because we didn’t bring those topics up because they would just ruin the thing we were working on. So, we focused very much on one thing. Otherwise, we started fighting.
JACK: Well, besides wanting things to be freely available on the internet, they also all three shared a burning love for technology. They loved computers, networking, websites, programming, system administration, the internet, and Linux, and they were good at what they did. They were able to build a pretty stable high-traffic website running on minimal equipment with not many resources and just doing their best to keep it going under the heavy load.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, okay, okay, so we had some things more in common.
JACK: Okay, so what exactly is The Pirate Bay? Well, it’s an index of BitTorrent files, and BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. So, if you want to send a file to someone else online, one way to do that is through BitTorrent which is quite amazing because it lets you download from multiple places at once and as soon as you start getting some of it downloaded, you start sharing what you’ve downloaded with others so they can download it, too. BitTorrent is more robust and typically faster than downloading from one central location. Now, using BitTorrent is perfectly fine and legal. Most Linux installation discs are free and the team that makes that Linux distribution will often just add it to BitTorrent as a way to download it, and I think it’s actually the preferred way that they recommend you download it, because it won’t bog down their systems.
But when this protocol came out, people were like oh, hey, let’s use this to share and trade pirated stuff like copies of movies, music, books, and games. That worked wonderfully. People were sharing music and movies and giving them away for free, and then those people would immediately share it so others could download it, and it just became a big file-sharing party. But the problem is, how do you find movies and music that you want to download? Well, that’s where The Pirate Bay came in. Pirate Bay by itself is a blank page, but users would submit torrent files which were just locations of where you could download the music or movies, and so The Pirate Bay became a sort of search engine to find pirated content. It didn’t host any of this content itself; it really was just like a search engine.
PETER: The core basis of Pirate Bay was that here’s a platform. It’s good technology. You can upload whatever as long as you’re correct in your descriptions. You could upload a virus, you could upload basically whatever. If you say it’s a virus, then it’s fine. If it’s not a virus, we’re gonna take it down if you’re lying about it. The good thing was that it’s more of a freedom project than it is a technology project in many ways. So, if you want to use it for your home videos, if you want to use it for your Linux distributions, if you want to use it for Hollywood movies, everything goes. Everything’s fine. It’s up to you. It’s just a tool.
JACK: It started in Sweden and it was just hosting Swedish content at first.
PETER: It became kind of a famous site in Sweden, then in the rest of Scandinavia, and then it kind of just grew. [MUSIC] But because of the technology, it was – we added a server every year. It wasn’t much more than that. I remember a few things that happened. There was a big torrent site in Spain that got shut down, and Pirate Bay was all in Swedish but all of a sudden it was just filled with Spanish content like Spanish movies, Spanish books, Spanish music. We didn’t really understand what was going on until we realized there was some news about a really big torrent site in Spanish going down. So, they just defaulted to moving over to Pirate Bay which was the only one that they could find on search engines, I guess.
The most downloaded torrent at that time on Pirate Bay was actually a Swedish language course and I found it really funny because they were trying to learn Swedish so they could use Pirate Bay because there was this desperation for something. I think we realized that it was kind of an important project at that time. Then we also had this idea that we wanted to play with the concept of Pirate Bay and not follow traditional standards, so we actually sent in a letter to the Swedish king saying look, we’re promoting your language; maybe give us medal. That was just like, this is – maybe it’s illegal, maybe it doesn’t really matter, but so many people in Spain are now trying to learn Swedish because of us, so you should just gratulate us and give us a medal. People got really, really pissed at us for being annoying and at the same time right, and I just loved that whole vibe that we got with Pirate Bay.
JACK: After a few years, Pirate Bay was the largest pirate search engine on the internet, with millions of users, and they didn’t really care what was on their search engine which meant tons of people were sharing pirated software on The Pirate Bay. Music, movies, games, books, apps, docs, whatever can be [00:10:00] shared digitally could be listed on The Pirate Bay. Okay, so the powers that be think that this is piracy which goes against some laws. What’s your justification that this is not illegal?
PETER: But I don’t really care if it’s illegal or not. That’s kind of the core, again. Someone has defined what is legal and what’s illegal, and I don’t really agree with that perspective. For me, it’s more important what’s moral and what’s immoral. For me, it’s immoral to actually say that you can’t have this, you can’t be part of the cultural conversation because you don’t have enough money. So for me, that was the justification of everything I did, is because I want access to information. I want everyone to have the same access of information that I had growing up because I think it’s a way to actually educate people and be part of a global conversation. So, the law should – if there is a law against this, which there isn’t in every country – but those laws are unjust, so I don’t – I think it’s fine to break a law that’s not correct.
JACK: Hm, that actually sounds pretty compelling. Like, for instance, Spotify lets you listen to millions of songs free, right? But actually, Spotify only works in certain countries in the world and up until February 2021, there were only five countries in Africa that could get Spotify. So, there’s tons of people in Africa who can’t afford to buy music and movies, and they can’t stream it either, and no, you can’t use iHeart or Pandora there either. Both of those are legal in mostly English-speaking countries. So, just by sheer luck, if you happen to be born in one of the countries that doesn’t have Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartRadio, how are you going to enjoy the millions of songs that have had such an impact on our lives and shaped us to become who we are?
A lot of people in Africa can’t afford food, much less to buy music, and there’s this copyright system set up not even in their country that restricts them from getting a copy online at a place like The Pirate Bay. But you might ask what about the people who create the content? Shouldn’t they be paid fairly for the stuff they’ve worked so hard on? Yeah, sure, absolutely. Nobody’s saying they shouldn’t, but what The Pirate Bay does is it challenges whether or not the current copyright system is the best way for artists to make money, because even though The Pirate Bay had millions of users downloading music illegally, the music industry was still smashing records. Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Adele were selling massive amounts of their albums during the height of piracy where you could just get it for free online.
PETER: We are copies of other things and the opposition, the anti-copyright – the copyright people and the anti-pirate people, they’re kind of against us as human beings in many ways.
JACK: Whoa, that’s getting a little bit too far out there for me. I mean, I guess it’s true, but what? Now, I want to say again that The Pirate Bay doesn’t store any music or movies on their service. It’s just a search engine to connect you to the place that does have it, which in my opinion makes it very similar to what Google is. The thing is, with the right skills, you can find all this same stuff on Google. You can do things like type in the name of a song and then type in title:indexof and mp3, and essentially you’re telling Google you want to search the contents of a directory to find music files. So, you could easily point at Google and say they’re also contributing to the piracy problem.
PETER: Well, I think Google – if you look at piracy, Google is doing it for money and they’re actually having copies of the data on their servers, so they’re definitely much worse than Pirate Bay has ever been, ‘cause with Pirate Bay you never had a copy on the server. You – and you didn’t – there was no way of making money from that, so Google are definitely commercially a pirate entity.
JACK: Not only that, but you can easily find copyrighted music and videos all over YouTube. I don’t know how that’s legal, but I’m always surprised to see people uploading full movies or songs that are obviously copyrighted that just stay up for years and have hundreds of thousands of downloads.
PETER: The difference between Pirate Bay and Google is that they’re considered good guys because they’re business people, so I think that – I’d say the opposition to Pirate Bay, they would also be business people that are interested in doing business with other businesses. They’re not interested in talking to some asshole people from Sweden challenging their existence, because I was very clear and I think my friends were very clear that we don’t see a place for these copyright holders in the world that we’re trying to build, so they’re not the enemy; [MUSIC] they’re just like, not worthwhile at all, so we didn’t have them as enemies. We just had them as someone to not care about whatsoever and that’s dangerous for, I think, the business people when someone says you should not be even – even be part of the discussion.
JACK: Ah yes, of course; [00:15:00] business. The music and film industry are big businesses and when you buy an album, it’s the music industry that takes most of the money, leaving the artists with pennies on each sale. While the media industries were trying to contact the people at The Pirate Bay to get them to take this content off, The Pirate Bay just didn’t even bother to respond. They had no interest in dealing with the film or music industry at all.
PETER: Someone has framed the discussion around something and we just take that framing for granted, and that’s – I think that’s the big thing we did with Pirate Bay, is that we did not allow our opposition’s framing to be the frame that we accepted. So, we made our own frame. We framed the copyright discourse about freedom rather than money, and I think a lot of people enjoyed Pirate Bay because of the attitude and because of – I wouldn’t say revolutionary but this alternative world that is available when you have free access to information.
JACK: How were you making money in those days? Or, yeah, I’m also curious if this was enough to make it your full-time job as well.
PETER: None of us worked on this full-time. So, Fredrik and Gottfrid, they had a hosting company called PRQ, so they were working on that. I worked at a small company myself and I worked for different clients. Pirate Bay was just costing money, so there were advertising on Pirate Bay but the people that put up ads on Pirate Bay, they were like ringtones or some weird shit that was kind of semi-legal to sell whatsoever, and they didn’t really pay much or anything at all.
JACK: The ads they placed on the site would offset the cost of running The Pirate Bay, but it doesn’t look like the team made much money from this. It actually seems like they were operating at a loss, like the whole time.
PETER: Basically, in 2005 I think, 2004, 2005, we rebuilt Pirate Bay. It was a one-week task, and then we never really looked at Pirate Bay – we never did anything with Pirate Bay in a technical way after that. There was never any new features, there was never any new code, so since 2004, I don’t think there’s been any new code whatsoever. Maybe now in the latest years. I haven’t followed the past two years much, but…
JACK: Yeah, it looks the same even today.
PETER: Yeah, it looks – it always looked like shit and it always worked like crap.
JACK: I totally agree, actually. The Pirate Bay has always frustrated me. First, it’s always been very slow. Second, the interface is hard to navigate sometimes to find a good torrent you’re trying to download, and I’ve thought about complaining to them many times.
PETER: A lot of people were complaining about a lot of things and we always had the same answer and it’s like first of all, we don’t care. [MUSIC] It works good enough. We have other things to work on like day jobs that actually pay the bills so we can have a place to stay and have food, and then if you don’t like it, then build your own. Because it was also very important for us to not become a centralized hub and the irony is – because everyone else shut down because of legal threats – we became the only go-to place. The Pirate Bay was just the only place left. It was never the best file-sharing system. It was never the best search engine. It was quite crap, but we wanted people to be really annoyed about this and make something better so we didn’t have to be the only alternative.
So instead of it being like Facebook and all of these other social media giants that are improving their technology all the time, it’s like, it’s good enough. Someone will have to make something better because there’s a lot of things that could be improved. So, we spent really little time on technology. The only thing we did was to move when we couldn’t pay the bills. So, that was basically – then we copied it, then put it somewhere else. So, no one worked on the technology. Of course, there was no support or anything else. There was nothing, so our time that we spent on Pirate Bay was basically talking to media or talking to people about where to host next and so on.
JACK: Where to host next; see, that became the constant question because the powers that be were trying to close in on The Pirate Bay and get it shut down. Do you agree that your site has been the most attacked by takedowns and just attacks in general than any other site out there?
PETER: Definitely. I think that’s – we’ve been very much after that, I think, as well. We’ve been kind of – not hunting problems but we have not ever done something in a sane way when it comes to how to reply to legal threats or anything. We just – have you seen Monty Python’s – this movie about the knights who say Ni?
PETER: So you have this guy; [00:20:00] he’s in a fight. Someone cuts off his leg and he’s like come on, come at me. He doesn’t back off. He loses his arms, he loses everything. It’s just the head left and he’s still like, so come attack me, you know? I think Pirate Bay’s exactly the same. We didn’t have this normal survival skill and people got really annoyed and just attacked more and more and more. I think that since we had this idea that we were going to survive because of some higher values than just money or whatever, we’re still around and most other people would have shut down a long time ago. But you get to a point where it’s like you’re already so fucked that you can’t be more fucked, so it doesn’t really matter if you fuck someone else, you know? If you’re sued in one country and you’re gonna lose all of the money you never had to begin with, it doesn’t matter if you get sued in ten more countries and lose exactly the same amount which is zero in the end, right? So, it’s more a way of giving payback to asshole people that are against your project.
JACK: Here we’ve come to the part of the story that I’m completely dumbfounded by. I mean, still, after researching all this and learning as much as I can, I still can’t figure out why this site is still operational. I mean, if you have the world’s largest pirating site on the internet, surely that won’t last long, right? Well, here we are in the year 2021 and The Pirate Bay is still going strong. So, for the rest of this episode, I want to hear about all the ways people have tried to stop The Pirate Bay, and this is a long road, so buckle up and get comfy.
PETER: [MUSIC] The first big takedown we had with Pirate Bay when it was – because of cops coming to actually take machines. They were not after Pirate Bay; they were after another customer that the PRQ was hosting which was Kavkaz Center, which – it’s a Chechen rebel movement that Putin was very upset about, so he ordered basically the Swedish cops to make a raid against PRQ. Accidentally, it took down The Pirate Bay as well.
JACK: The Pirate Bay was hosted at a Swedish company called PRQ which actually was Gottfrid’s company, one of the other co-founders of The Pirate Bay. PRQ had sort of a reputation for hosting questionable stuff, and so the cops came and took a bunch of servers from PRQ trying to take one of their customers offline.
PETER: That was the first time we got raided; was not because of Pirate Bay. It was because of Putin being upset with PRQ hosting a customer which was a Chechen rebel movement.
JACK: Okay, we’re off to a good start, right? Vladimir Putin was behind their first real takedown. The cops took Pirate Bay’s servers but they just got some more and rebuilt the site. It took them only a few days to get it back. Now, for some reason, PRQ couldn’t get enough bandwidth to run The Pirate Bay properly, so they had to move The Pirate Bay to another data center.
PETER: [MUSIC] So, we had moved Pirate Bay into actually a banking data center because – it was also kind of a funny thing because a lot of people thought that we were hiding Pirate Bay. We were there totally plain sight. We had a picture of the servers in the rack with a GPS coordinates and a map of where they were actually hosted.
JACK: At this point, they knew people wanted to take them down and they’d probably get raided by the cops again, so you would think if you know you’re gonna get raided by the cops, you want to probably hide where you’re hosting your servers, right? Yeah, no, not these guys. They put exactly where The Pirate Bay was hosted clearly and visible on their website, the exact latitude and longitude coordinates. Why? Because it was hosted in a place that they didn’t think was touchable by the Swedish police.
PETER: It was very much a fuck you because we knew that what we were doing was legal, and then we placed it in a banking data center because it was protected. It’s a protected facility in Sweden, so the police are not actually allowed to go in. It’s only the military. The whole idea was that it would fuck with the police because they’re now allowed. They don’t have jurisdiction when it comes to banking. That’s the military basically, in Sweden, so they were not allowed to go in and actually raid it.
JACK: They were getting more takedown notices and cease and desist letters, but they just kept ignoring them.
PETER: So, what happened is that the Swedish movie and music companies, they were really, really upset with Pirate Bay, so they went to the cops all the time. It’s like, here’s our movie that you can download and so on, and the prosecutors were looking into this quite a lot and trying to find ways to take it down because they knew there was a lot of pressure. These are influential people. They always came to the same conclusion that we’re just a carrier, like an index, like the phone book, whatever. So, it was totally legal. We have this in black and white that The Pirate Bay is legal according to Swedish law. So, the lobby groups, the anti-pirates, they kind of – in Hollywood started talking to their friends in the White House and said you have to do something about this. [00:25:00] We can’t just let these kids in Sweden with these weird nicknames that are all druggie and alcoholics and sex-craved people, whatever, just weird guys; you can’t let them ruin our business.
So, the White House eventually invited the Swedish Minister of Justice to come over and talk about Pirate Bay as an issue. The Minister of Justice informed them that according to Swedish law, a minister cannot tell the prosecutors what to focus on. Then he went back home to Sweden and he told the prosecutor that you have to focus on file-sharing systems using torrents because otherwise the US has said that we will stop trading with Sweden, so we can’t sell Volvos, we can’t sell ABBA CDs whatsoever to the United States, and they’re threatening to go to the World Trade Organization and asking to put Sweden on the list together with Palestine and Cuba, that you’re not allowed to trade with these countries. So, the prosecutors in Sweden got this from the Minister of Justice, that you have to focus on this and they said – [MUSIC] basically, they said but it’s not illegal. Everything is legal and said we don’t care.
JACK: Peter thought that what they were doing was legal because they weren’t hosting any of this pirated material themselves. They compared what they were doing to a phone book or search engine, and the Swedish police sided with them on that, agreeing it was legal. But the guys at The Pirate Bay saw signs that pressure was mounting to take them down anyway. But they were ready; their servers were hosted in a banking data center, untouchable by police. There would be no way for the police to raid them there.
PETER: But they did anyhow. A few people lost their job for actually letting them in because they didn’t have this jurisdiction. They came with fifty, sixty cops, raided The Pirate Bay, arrested people.
JACK: The police arrested Peter, Gottfrid, and Fredrik.
PETER: They didn’t know what they were doing. They took mice, speakers from everyone, they arrested our lawyer which was kind of funny because they were asking which lawyers we want and when we asked – or when Gottfrid asked for his lawyer, they just said you can’t have him. Then he said why can’t I have my lawyer? Then had to agree that – or admit that he’s also arrested. It was a very bizarre situation.
JACK: Okay, so there you go. Story’s over, right? The three guys from The Pirate Bay arrested and their servers were taken down. Yeah, no. Nice try. Peter, Fredrik, and Gottfrid were arrested but the way Swedish courts work is that there needed to be a trial and since these were not violent criminals, they were allowed to go home until their trial. So, pretty much the same day they were arrested and the site was taken down, they immediately started working to get it back up. [MUSIC] They were not fazed by this takedown or arrest at all.
PETER: Yeah, exactly. Why should we close it down? It was legal. It was fun. We were already fucked. It’s kind of like, there’s no point in bringing it down. We didn’t want to let them win.
JACK: They knew that what they had was powerful, revolutionary almost. It was challenging big media industries all over the world and they fully believed that what they were doing was right. The Pirate Bay was down for a total of three days as a result of this raid and arrest, and then the site came back up but this time it was hosted in the Netherlands.
PETER: Yes, I think it was Holland mostly. We started doing something else after the raid. Instead of having the servers in one place, we put up basically a front-end load balancer at one location and then we had a backup location for that. Then we started loaning or renting machines from people we knew.
JACK: Yeah, so they didn’t want The Pirate Bay to have one point of failure. They started hosting the website in multiple locations at once which would make it fully redundant. This way, if one of the hosting providers went down, there would be another ready and the cops would have to do some kind of international coordinated raid to take them out this time. So, the thing is, is like if the White House is putting pressure on Sweden to say stop these guys and then they say okay, well, we raided them and we arrested them, and then you get it back up again, I’m surprised the White House didn’t say again, look, they’ve still got it up. Go ahead, stop them for real this time. Like, why are you letting them still run this? Then oh, well, maybe Sweden was saying well, we got a court date coming up so we’re gonna sort it out in court, or maybe something else was going on. Do you know?
PETER: Well, we tried getting to know what happened and then they said we’ll be totally open about all of the communication with the White House that we’ve had and we’re gonna have – everything’s gonna be totally transparent. Then over 700 documents are still marked Top Secret about what happened between Sweden and the White House regarding this case, so we don’t really know what happened, all of the details, and that’s kind of an interesting thing that I want to see. Maybe when I’m like, [00:30:00] eighty years old they’ll actually reveal all of the papers or someone leaks it on one of the favorite platforms we have.
But yeah, I think also Sweden have a really – there’s a really open political discussion in Sweden and it’s a small country. We’re very strong when it comes to the rights we have as citizens and all of these things. Previously, Sweden wasn’t like these pussies that they are today with being totally scared of everyone, but we even – Sweden even had a prime minister that said that the US were fucking murderers because of the Vietnam war and stuff, so there is a history of Sweden not being – not having to listen to the United States and also being very proud of its independence and the political openness of being able to actually go be a little bit punk.
JACK: [MUSIC] By this time, they really started getting a lot of takedown notices, DMCA violations, lawsuits filed against them, and cease and desist letters.
PETER: Disney sent a few, Dreamworks sent the best ones, Apple sent a few, like State TV, but I think some days we got a few thousand DMCA takedown notices which is interesting because Sweden’s not part of United States. We very often replied exactly that, that we know that United States have this law called DMCA. It’s not applicable outside of the United States and I know you like to invade countries because – and enforcing your law and so on, but you have to do it before you can actually tell us to use your law, so we basically told them fuck you, fuck off. We were very aggressive in replies to these companies that sent DMCA takedown notices.
JACK: Yeah, what were some of the other replies you sent them?
PETER: Well, some of the favorite ones were when we told them which batons to put up their asses, or we – I remember I sent a map once of where Sweden was and where the United States was and like, here’s places to bomb in Sweden ‘cause you usually bomb when you don’t like us. I sent – once I sent a picture of a polar bear as a reply to I think Dreamworks as well, and they were kind of confused about – they just replied well, why did you send a picture of a polar bear? I said it’s – this polar bear is standing outside of my kitchen right now and he’s trying to kill me ‘cause polar bears are very aggressive and they like to eat people, so I don’t really care about corporate issues right now. Polar bears are dangerous. Corporate is not important. So, they were very confused with our replies. They’re just very used to people listening to like oh shit, I got a legal threat, I’m gonna listen to them, they have all of the power, and just close down whatever. But we did the opposite; we just told them to fuck off aggressively, very – let’s say very teenager kind of words, so a lot of fuck, a lot of bad jokes, aggressiveness, and then we published all of them on The Pirate Bay just to be – make them even more pissed with us.
JACK: There’s a documentary about some of this called The Pirate Bay AFK and in it, Gottfrid is asked what he did with the DMCA takedown notices and he says well, the first hundred times we’d get it from someone we’d just tell them to contact the person who’s sharing and uploading the files and that The Pirate Bay does not store any copyrighted material. Then he says after the hundredth takedown notice that he would lose his patience and that’s when they’d reply with all these crude comments. One of the media companies that were really upset with The Pirate Bay was a company called MediaDefender.
PETER: So, MediaDefender was this really – it was – I think it’s a spin-off from Universal, I think. I can’t remember now; it’s ages ago. But it was a company that basically protected media on the internet. That was their business thing. So, they uploaded – let’s say Spider-Man is out and people start pirating Spider-Man. They would upload a fake Spider-Man torrent and when people start downloading it, they would take the IP address and then go to the internet provider, ask about the customer data, and then send you a threatening letter and say you have to pay $500 or we’re gonna take you to court.
JACK: Now, what’s fascinating is that this fake Spider-Man film they listed on The Pirate Bay wasn’t actually the Spider-Man film. It was just a dummy video the same size and format as a movie, but there was nothing in it. So, it’s crazy that people were fined $500 for downloading a film that had absolutely nothing to do with Spider-Man except for the filename.
PETER: These were really annoying people ‘cause they were trying to make money out of basically scamming people. A lot of – it was not only on Pirate Bay but on all of the torrent sites and other file-sharing systems. So, an acquaintance to us [00:35:00] actually hacked them [MUSIC] and got full access to their e-mail boxes and their internal network and their voiceover IP system and everything. It was very interesting times because they got paid a shitload of money to – from the clients. Like, Sony and these guys paid them millions to protect stuff on the internet. They were lying quite a lot to their clients about how much they were helping. The interesting thing was that we – since we got the copies of the e-mails; we had like, every time they got an e-mail, we had it a second later because it was forwarded to us automatically.
These e-mails always included which IP ranges they were using to share movies on The Pirate Bay, so we of course blocked them before they could even start using these services and messing with The Pirate Bay users. It was – when we realized that they were doing all of this, then they sent out a lot of press releases saying how effective they were about getting people – stop people from file sharing. So, we made it kind of our thing that we would mess with them. This guy that’s our acquaintance, he actually leaked all of the – all of their software that they made and I think a lot of e-mail as well and some phone calls, very funny phone calls. They are still on Pirate Bay, I think, that you can download and listen to them.
JACK: Oh, right. Okay, I have to download this and listen.
MDEFENDER: Hi, this is Ben…
MDEFENDER: …Grodsky, MediaDefender.
JACK: This is a call between MediaDefender and the attorney general’s office in New York. Apparently MediaDefender was helping them investigate a child porn case but on this call, they’re talking about e-mails that got leaked and how there must be a hacker somewhere but neither side wants to admit there’s a hacker in their network.
MDEFENDER: We’ll talk by phone unless we can share some PGP keys for e-mail. If you can check on your end again, just – and I’m checking on my end, too. I’m not accusing you guys but I think we need to – under the sensitivity of this thing, we both need to make sure that both of our systems are secure on both ends, both our mail servers and our networks to make sure that whoever saw that e-mail didn’t see it on either of our mail servers or on the inside of either of our networks.
JACK: So, MediaDefender knew someone had seen their e-mails and had a hunch that maybe it was the guys from The Pirate Bay but were sort of dumbfounded as to what to do.
MDEFENDER: You know, somebody’s got access to a mail server, they might have access to other machines on the network, and the argument goes that even though the data that’s being sent from us to you in a secure fashion is secure, if there’s somebody sniffing around on your network or on our network, it’s not secure on either end before it gets into the tunnel.
MDEFENDER: So, yeah, I think we’re good.
PETER: So, we actually sued them in the end. So, we went to the cops in Sweden, said that this company is illegally using our service and they’re breaking the terms of service and that they know that they’re doing it, so they’re actually violating our copyright, so we sued them over that in Sweden.
JACK: So, this lawsuit was more of a joke. The Pirate Bay guys knew they had no rights when it came to imposing their website’s rules on a US company, and that was kinda the point of the lawsuit, to show them how silly it seemed to go after some guys in another country for violating your arbitrary rules. But MediaDefender wasn’t just waging legal threats on The Pirate Bay; they were actively attacking Pirate Bay’s website. In fact, some of the e-mails that got leaked had discussed how MediaDefender was conducting denial-of-service attacks on The Pirate Bay. So now, The Pirate Bay was seeing how MediaDefender was poisoning The Pirate Bay with fake torrents and DDossing them.
PETER: Yeah, they did quite a lot of those. We used that as evidence against them.
JACK: So, you decided to pick up the phone and dial the CEO of MediaDefender to say cut it out?
PETER: Yeah. It’s funny. That’s the thing, it’s the irony. I love the irony. So, yeah, why not? We had like, a banter going. I remember one time I was actually reading their e-mail. It was coming into my e-mail box and I was talking to him on the phone about something. I think I told him that we’re – handed over the lawsuit against them and so on and he was laughing about that. He said fuck you and so on. Then I saw that there was an e-mail from the reception of MediaDefender saying someone called John had a birthday, so the cake is available now in the reception; everyone come have cake. Then it said oh, I’m busy, I have to go, and it said oh, enjoy the cake. He didn’t react to that. I think maybe he understood afterwards that oh my god, the guy was reading my e-mail all along. I really hope that he, you know, understood how much better we are than him.
JACK: But you accused a police investigator of [00:40:00] conflict of interest with MediaDefender…
JACK: …and how did you know that?
PETER: So, this is the guy that made – for two and a half years, he was the guy who did The Pirate Bay investigation, right? So, the – after the raid he was the head cop for the whole investigation. So, we were in touch with him quite often. Since there was a lot of other machines that were actually taken down during The Pirate Bay raid, we asked for some of them to be returned. There were a lot of political organizations that had their machines, so we were many people in the group and around The Pirate Bay group that had a lot of contact with him, so we knew him quite well. One of the guys he called in as a witness during the investigation actually just as a joke added him on Facebook.
Facebook was kind of new and you still had this thing called networks on Facebook, so when you joined Facebook you would say I’m in this network; I work for the cops or whatever. The way we found out that he started working for Warner Brothers was that he changed network on Facebook from Swedish Police to Warner Brothers the day after he quit being a cop which is the day he handed over the final investigation of The Pirate Bay. So, we reported this to the police and to the prosecutor and the whole – and to the court, everything. This was also the guy that we had during the whole investigation period. We also filed criminal complaints against MediaDefender, to him actually, and he was the one who was supposed to investigate that.
We didn’t know that he actually was working or he was going to start working for the – he was already – he had a contract and everything almost a year before he handed over the investigation. But in Sweden, it turns out that there was no law against police actually starting working for one of the parties in a criminal case because Sweden is very naive when it comes to this, because everyone in Scandinavia has had a really privileged, blessed, uncorrupt state for a long while, so all of a sudden these very corrupt companies come over and see like oh, it’s totally fine to employ a cop. Let’s do that.
JACK: Okay, so where are we now? Two raids by the cops, their servers are seized, arrested, DDoS attacked from the media industry, but this is just a warm-up. We’re only in the year 2008 at this point of the story and the site is still up today, so there’s another thirteen years of battles left in this story. So, stay with us through the break to hear the rest. In your opinion, is there anything that is – that – I mean, don’t you think that – regarding copyright, is there anything that should be copyrighted and protected? Because if somebody makes great art and then somebody just says okay, I’m gonna sell this for half price on my website or give it away free, is that – how – where is your justification for zero copyright or do you even believe there should never be?
PETER: Well, first of all, if you look at what copyright started out as being, the whole idea of copyright was to make sure that a copy was the correct copy, that no one changed and altered the content of a book, for instance, that you would know that if I read this book it will be the same thing that the author has written because it was important pieces of information that he wanted not to be distorted or changed somewhere along the road. That was copyright, and then someone made it into some sort of financial system. For me, the whole thing is like, as an individual, I should not be limited in my access to information. Between companies, whatever kind of business deal they work out, that’s up to them.
I don’t even consider that as copyright. They use copyright as the grounds for that. But for me, the problem is when copyright becomes the default censorship method. Because we’ve had a limitation before of how many physical copies we can produce, how to distribute, there was actual costs involved with distribution. With the internet, everything changed. All of a sudden, if you would pay for every song on the internet, just had access to them, you would have to pay so many millions of whatever. It doesn’t make sense because we’ve altered the way that we use arts, we use any type of culture, right? So, we also need to alter the way we look at financial renumeration when it comes to this. So, I think that we solved the distribution method with the internet which also needed the payment method to change or the financing of culture.
The problem is that when you talk to people about copyright, you end up talking to a lawyer from a company that owns someone else’s work. You never really talk to an artist about copyright. For most artists, it’s more important to actually build a fanbase that will be able to help them pay bills by going to a concert or [00:45:00] whatever that pays them actual money, because most of the money when it comes to music or movies, they actually go to the companies and not to the producers of the content, and then the companies say that they’re there to protect the people that actually steal the money from. It’s an unjust system and I can’t really accept that because it’s bad for me, it’s bad for the artists. We never said that we’re against people getting paid for content. It’s just that we need to find a new method of actually renumerating them.
If it’s based on tax or Patreon in your case, for instance, that’s much more interesting and much fairer because you take out some sort of middle man that is controlling who gets access to things. A typical example is like, today we think we solve this thing of music distribution with Spotify, but if you look at the countries like Brazil, Kosovo, or poorer countries, poorer nations, Spotify is not interesting on being available in these regions, so people don’t have access to music the same way there. For them, it’s really vital that there are torrent sites out there that can actually download music from to be able to listen to them at all, because they are not served by some sort of markets. For me, it’s about the fairness of access to information. Then it’s a separate question on how to make sure that artists can actually make money from this, because that’s not the most important thing but if they make great art, they will make money from it somehow. It’s always been the case, but it’s never been the case that you make your money from – it’s very few people that make their money from copyright.
JACK: Oh, and if you’re wondering what they would do if someone were to put child porn or other horrible things up on Pirate Bay, they would delete that. They had a moderation team that would go through and clear certain stuff out. If you remember, they were arrested in 2006 for running this thing, and so on February 16, 2009, their trial started. [BACKGROUND TALK] They were accused of violating Swedish copyright law. The prosecution team had lawyers from Hollywood there. That documentary called The Pirate Bay AFK does a good job at documenting this court case. You can see all three of them up there getting questioned on the stand, and I have to say they acted flippant on the stand, almost like they weren’t taking this seriously at all.
Someone asked Gottfrid if he’s a computer genius during the trial, and this is what it sounded like in the Swedish courtroom. [SWEDISH] But when the prosecutor asked him if he can elaborate on what kind of competencies he has, he refused to answer that, saying that it doesn’t seem like the appropriate time for him to go over his resume and that question is just too hard to answer. [SWEDISH] They asked Peter how he met Fredrik and Gottfrid, and he said oh, I don’t remember; probably in a chatroom or something. The prosecutor said no, no, no; when did you meet them IRL? Someone in the trial was like, what’s IRL mean? The prosecutor said…
PROSECUTOR: In real life.
JACK: Peter said something like…
PETER: I really hate the term IRL because it minimizes us and it minimizes the importance of the internet. I think we are always ourselves on the internet now. It’s very rarely we’re not ourselves on the internet. We would be more open and honest on the internet than we are in – out of the internet, so I think it’s a old saying that doesn’t really exist anymore. I’ve always been promoting the concept of AFK, away from keyboard, instead of in real life because I always wanted people to understand that the internet is for real and it’s actually where most of our lives are today.
JACK: You can imagine how this trial went when three guys continued to answer questions in this way. But honestly, this is actually the way lawyers talk, with extreme precision and accuracy, without volunteering any extra details to help the other side. But the prosecution team was dumbfounded by the way they acted in court. The responses were accurate but just extremely specific and somewhat ideological and there were a lot of people who came to attend this trial, fans of The Pirate Bay.
PETER: Everyone was totally on our side. There were chants outside and then The Pirate Party had started a few years before and they were like, this was their way of actually getting a lot of attention, so they had people there making cookies and we pirated recipes, and it was very – it was a festival thing going on. The attention in Scandinavia was huge. It was insane. The court case was the first court case where it was actually distributed on Swedish radio, so live, you could listen into the court case. It was going on for three weeks so we had seven hours, eight hours per day that was live radio from the court case. It was all very new for everyone involved because the judge had never seen anything like it. [00:50:00] We’ve never been to court before and it was just, the defense was very confused about – they were all very – we had famous lawyers, all of us, and they were still very confused about how big this was and they didn’t really understand all of a sudden the BBC is there and interviewing them about things and how Swedish legal system works and so on. It was interesting. Let’s say that.
JACK: Anyway, they lost the court case. [MUSIC] The judge ruled that they must serve one year in prison and pay thirty million Swedish crowns or about 3.6 million in US in penalties.
PETER: Well, the case was kind of corrupt. Let’s be honest. I got convicted for things that never happened which is kind of strange. They said I was responsible for some servers that was not even in the rest – in the raid. They didn’t take any of those machines, but the judge didn’t understand what that meant which is kind of interesting because yeah, it was a very corrupt, weird court case. We kind of figured that out after the first two, three days that something was off. So, we started treating it more as a theatre performance than actual court case. Actually, before the court case we said that we wanted to move the court from being in Stockholm’s normal, small court because we needed a bigger audience, because we had a huge audience. We needed like, let’s say a theatre with 80,000 seats so all of our fans can visit and be part of the court case. That was the attitude we had towards this, that it’s a theatre piece. We called it the spectrial; it was spectacle trial. Of course, it’s not really good advice in how the court will treat you when you treat them as being some sort of theatre rather – performance rather than actually being some sort of legit court.
JACK: So, after the court case you were convicted of one year in prison. Well, number one, why didn’t you go prison and number two, why didn’t this take The Pirate Bay down after being convicted of this? You would think Pirate Bay would be shut down at that point.
PETER: Well, why should you go to prison? That’s a weird…
PETER: I can…
JACK: No, it’s not – why did – so, don’t the police – like, you’re in court; the police say okay, you’re guilty. Okay, come this way, it’s time for prison. Right? You have one year you have to serve. Why didn’t that just happen immediately?
PETER: No, no. You’ve seen too many Hollywood movies. Also, we’re not in Hollywood.
JACK: He goes on to explain the way the system works in Sweden, but the short story is that he appealed the case. If you appeal, you don’t yet need to go to prison and you can keep living at home and wait for your second trial. So, in the meantime, they completely ignored any requests to shut The Pirate Bay down.
PETER: Because we didn’t want to. I think it’s that simple. It was just not hard to run and it was running in different places and we were in different countries, and we just decided none of us were – none of us had the interest of going to prison, so we didn’t go.
JACK: It just – I mean, it doesn’t work that way in the US. You can’t be arrested and sentenced to a crime that you committed for copyright infringement and then they – and then just say I appeal this and I’m gonna keep it going. It’s so weird that you just think that that’s an option and that was what happened.
PETER: But I think it’s weird that you don’t see that as an option. Why would you have to go to prison for something which is not a crime, and why would you help someone to go – why would you help the state by voluntarily going to prison for something which is…
PETER: You know.
JACK: Well, it’s not so much that it’s not a crime; it’s that in court, they deemed it as a crime and a jury convicted you of yes, you’re guilty of that crime, so that’s the final verdict there of the court has ruled this way, and so whether you believe it’s a crime or not does not matter anymore ‘cause the court has ruled a certain way.
PETER: I don’t agree. I don’t agree. First of all, it was not a valid court, you know. Okay, going back to the corruption thing; it turned out that the judge in our case was also the chairman for the Pro Copyright Society of Sweden. I can’t take that seriously when he convicts me of breaking copyright on evidence which was basically look, here are people downloading things from The Pirate Bay. It says well, tracker is down because we had an – we didn’t have bandwidth when they were actually doing the evidence, so when they tried downloading things it didn’t work, so all of the screenshots they were using as evidence in the court case actually said Pirate Bay’s not working, so they showed that none of these things has been downloaded from Pirate Bay which was funny but it didn’t help. But of course, I don’t take that – it was [00:55:00] totally not a legit court case. I think also being wanted by Interpol is a better option than going to prison because it gives me the right to say I’ve been wanted by Interpol afterwards. That’s worthwhile. I didn’t get a t-shirt but at least I have the saying; I can say I’ve been wanted by Interpol.
JACK: Was there fear inside you at all that maybe, just maybe sometime you might get arrested and extradited to the US and spend twenty years in prison? ‘Cause I mean, in the US they were – here – making huge fines on people for downloading like, one song, like $200,000 or something you’re fined for this, and it was ridiculous stuff going on over here, so I can imagine them catching the kingpin of this and saying not only are you gonna get a million-dollar fine but you’re also gonna go to prison for a long time in the US. I mean, was there something like that in the back of your head?
PETER: I think even though we realized this is a kind of corrupt court case, we also realized that Sweden cannot extradite people that are citizens or neighboring country – I’m not a Swedish person but the other guys were Swedish. They would never be able to be extradited to another country for the same crime. It’s also like this double jeopardy thing that you can’t be convicted in another country for a crime and so on. The US of course, for – not only for Pirate Bay but for everything else we’ve been involved in, we couldn’t go – well, we’re super welcome to go to the US but we will never be able to leave, so we’re just staying out, right? We were never scared of the US that way but I wouldn’t want to help them.
But we’re never afraid when it comes to The Pirate Bay. We’re never afraid of being extradited to the US. Interesting thing in Sweden is that it’s not illegal to not go to prison. So when you get sentenced to prison, I think this is actually the case in most countries, is that you’re not the ones getting sentenced. You don’t have this – you don’t have – you can’t force someone to go to prison. There’s no human emotion that says I want to be locked in, so in Sweden at least, and – it’s totally up to the – it’s the state that gets sentenced to put you in prison, not you as a person, so like, technically state has the responsibility of locking you up. You don’t have to help whatsoever, which also means that it’s not illegal in Sweden to actually escape from prison because it’s a human trait that you don’t want to be locked up, so it’s the state that is forced to keep you in.
It’s not your job to be in prison. No one wants to be locked up, so you can’t force someone to change to be inhumane against themselves. That’s just bizarre. I didn’t want to help them. I travelled all over Europe with my normal passport. I didn’t get arrested even though I was on the Interpol Most Wanted list. I got kind of upset about that because there’s actual criminals that do exactly the same and don’t get caught and that kind of pisses me off. Like, the thing is, Interpol is really crap at arresting people. Seriously. That’s the problem that someone should actually deal with and having experience in that field, I know how badly they suck.
JACK: [MUSIC] Sweden did try to stop them. They mandated that all ISPs not do business with The Pirate Bay which was the first time that Sweden has ever made such a mandate. Can you imagine a government telling all ISPs to not do business with a certain company? It’s really incredible.
PETER: I think from a standpoint of the companies, they were kind of relieved probably that they didn’t have to offer that, but I think Pirate Bay had already left Sweden quite a long while ago because of – basically we owed money to every Swedish ISP anyhow because we didn’t pay the bandwidth bills, right? So, kind of left and did the other things which were other countries and other places which were more interesting to mess with as well. Also, a lot of the decisions on where to move Pirate Bay and what to do was also to influence the political discourse in those countries, so we decided to let The Pirate Party host Pirate Bay because we wanted it to be a political statement from them saying we are a political party and we’re running a site that we think is a political project here. Are you going to censor a political party for standing up to the ideologists which would be illegal in most countries?
JACK: Ah, yes; The Pirate Party. So, this is a political party in Sweden which basically has three core values; they want transparent government, more privacy for people, and they want to revise the patent or copyright system. Now, this Pirate Party was establishing itself independently from The Pirate Bay. There was no affiliation actually, but The Pirate Party just wasn’t getting much airtime or taken seriously until The Pirate Bay court case. Suddenly, the guy behind The Pirate Party was being interviewed everywhere to get his opinion on what’s happening, and thus The Pirate Party became more known. But to add to that, The Pirate Bay [01:00:00] was winning the hearts of people everywhere.
PETER: After the court case when we lost, there was – the biggest newspaper in Sweden had this typical poll on the front page of a newspaper saying was it right or wrong that they got convicted? 99% said it was wrong that we got convicted. It was very obviously that we had the full support of the public.
JACK: So, if you have a bunch of people all pumped up and excited about The Pirate Bay, The Pirate Party became their natural home. People started voting for The Pirate Party in elections. In the 2009 elections, The Pirate Party actually got 7% of the vote. It was a growing movement in Sweden but there were also Pirate Parties springing up in other countries, too. So for a while they tried hosting The Pirate Bay at The Pirate Party’s data center in order to try to gain some sort of protection.
PETER: It would be political censorship disconnecting them because if you disconnect Pirate Bay, you also disconnect the political party’s website and access to the internet which is illegal in most countries. So, it was a big gamble for them and I think it was also important that they did that and it was kind of funny as well, I think, especially the whole idea was actually – The Pirate Party was elected to the European parliament which is kind of a big thing as well, so we had this idea that we could maybe run Pirate Bay’s – basically the front end of Pirate Bay, the load balancer part would run inside the European Union parliament as for the lols, basically, because it would be funny.
JACK: That’s the interesting thing about The Pirate Bay, is how they were able to shape political discourse about copyright and patents. I mean, they weren’t hiding or running from anyone. No, they were taking their flag and running it with full force right into the center of European parliament. It’s just incredible. What Disney did next was kind of funny. First, listen to this anti-piracy message which you had to watch just before you could watch one of their DVDs.
HOST: [MUSIC] In every great Disney DVD, know the heroes and the villains. But with pirated DVD copies, there are only ever villains. DVD piracy is a crime and needs to be stopped. The inferior quality of these pirated DVDs will spoil your enjoyment of watching the film.
JACK: But in the same breath, one of Disney’s blockbuster films was Pirates of the Caribbean.
PETER: They realized from Hollywood that calling us pirates were not effective in terms of getting people to not like us. It was kind of funny, so they changed their whole concept of how to attack The Pirate Bay, saying we were like a cult. It was kinda funny because they were – in every single interview with the lawyers in Europe for Hollywood, like the lobbyists and lawyers that work for Hollywood in Europe, they were always saying like, this kopimist cult, kopimist cult all the time. I’ve always had this idea that if someone calls you something, then you make that cool.
Found out by researching a little bit that actually in Sweden, you can start your own religion. It’s fifty euros. Then you can register basically whatever you want as a religion. It would be an official religion recognized by the state. So, we had some friends and then we talked about this, and then we registered the Church of Kopimism in Sweden. I believe that we started, as I mentioned to you, we start life with being a copy of our parents. Our DNA is copied and remixed into a new human being and all of – everything we learn is from a book that we copy the information out of, so it’s like – and kind of the idea of kopimism is this whole concept of instead of – the Mormon church, they have this thing that everyone who’s a Mormon is also a priest.
So, I came up with this idea at like, 2:00 AM in the middle of the night, a little bit tired, and I was thinking what if everyone is a priest in the kopimist society and we can have priest-to-priest communication which is basically file-sharing. That would actually be protected as a religious service and it would be a confession which is actually illegal to listen in on, which means that if you find someone actually file-sharing and let’s say that they’re a kopimist and they were talking to their priest, you would have violated their religious right which is four years of prison minimum in most European countries. It was just really funny. It’s actually a recognized religion in Sweden. It’s like, 30,000 members, something like that, that are kopimists.
JACK: The media companies were getting really frustrated and were feeling like they couldn’t go after The Pirate Bay directly. So, they came up with an indirect way of tackling the problem; they pressured Google to take down links to content that was on The Pirate Bay, [01:05:00] like links to torrents and stuff, and Google took down direct links to torrents on The Pirate Bay but they kept up a link to The Pirate Bay in their search engine. Then the media companies pressured Facebook to remove all links to The Pirate Bay, and a lot of people on Facebook were sharing links to certain songs and videos that were on the site.
PETER: Yeah, but that’s the thing; Pirate Bay – kind of proud of it. It’s like, a few things I’m really proud of and one thing is that we’re – been the most-censored website in the world and it’s always for different reasons. Pirate Bay was censored – one of the first countries that censored Pirate Bay was China because of – they didn’t like the freedom of speech aspect of Pirate Bay. It was not really into the pirating. It would also be very ironic if China complained about piracy, but – so they just banned Pirate Bay for freedom of speech problems. When Facebook started blocking Pirate Bay links, it was probably among the first things that they ever blocked. It’s interesting that you would still be able to talk about the KKK and promoting the KKK but you are not allowed to send a link to your home video that you shared using torrents.
We’ve always been at the forefront of censorship rather than anything else. That’s for good and bad because a lot of these – a lot of countries or systems, they kind of use the whole idea that oh, we should block The Pirate Bay because people can illegally download something and then they can go to some court case and – court somewhere and they say oh, that sounds reasonable. Then they have kind of a precedent that oh, then we have a blocking system in place. Then we just add the next, the next, the next thing. We’ve kind of been abused quite a lot to bring out filters and block lists. In Denmark, for instance, Pirate Bay was one of the first websites that also got blocked because of piracy. When they had the – they forced the internet providers to block Pirate Bay and DNS. So all of a sudden they had the DNS blocking system in place.
JACK: Whoa, hold on a second; the whole country of Denmark blocked The Pirate Bay using a DNS block list? Hold on, let me look this up. Okay, yeah, it looks like there was a district court in Denmark which said the largest ISP in Denmark was assisting its customers in conducting copyright infringement and was ordered to block access to the site. So, the largest ISP in Denmark put in place a DNS block so users couldn’t get to The Pirate Bay. Now, this is really fascinating to me. So first, a DNS is how URLs get resolved to IP addresses. So like, when you type in google.com into your browser, your computer and all the routers in the world have no idea where you’re trying to access so before it can do anything, it first asks a DNS server hey, what’s the IP address for google.com?
Then the DNS server responds with that IP and from there, now your computer and all the routers know how to route that traffic properly. But in this case, the DNS server was saying no, I have no idea what the IP address is for The Pirate Bay, which meant users couldn’t get to the site. So, what’s fascinating to me here is I don’t think ISPs should be blocking content that you’re specifically asking for. You give money to an ISP so that they can give you internet access. That’s their job. That’s what you’re buying, a connection to the internet, but now this ISP is saying well, actually, there are certain websites that you can’t go to if you use us. To me, that’s a gross overreach of control. The internet should be open and once you get on it, you should be freely allowed to go wherever you want.
But here is a Danish ISP controlling where you can or can’t go, and to top it all off, this was a government order. When a government mandates that you’re not allowed to visit a certain website, that’s the opposite of freedom because this can easily be abused. Look at North Korea or China and how they block users from going to so many foreign websites. Those governments want to control the news and facts and only let you go to websites that they can control these things. So, once a block list is put in place, it’s pretty easy for the government to then say oh yeah, let’s also block this and block that, too. Before you know it, your government is controlling way too much of what you’re allowed to see and not see. Before I get off this tangent here, there are twenty-nine countries in the world who have blocked The Pirate Bay. Lots of countries in Europe block access. Australia, China, Russia, even Iran, and most of them have blocked it at an ISP level, completely blocking users from going to certain IPs, so even if you had a DNS server that resolved the IP, the ISPs in these countries will still not route traffic to The Pirate Bay in any way.
We should all agree it’s wrong when governments take away our internet whether it’s hitting a full kill switch, taking out the [01:10:00] entire internet, or just blocking one site. Anyway, in May of 2009, The Pirate Bay suffered another takedown. In order for them to be up, they need a hosting provider and an ISP, or internet connection. Well, the media industry found out what ISPs that The Pirate Bay was using and slapped them with some pretty serious lawsuits, saying if they continued to provide internet connectivity to The Pirate Bay, there will be a bunch of legal trouble coming their way. So, three of the ISPs that The Pirate Bay were using all disconnected The Pirate Bay from the internet, resulting in the site going down.
PETER: [MUSIC] Yeah, that happened quite a lot. Again, it’s like the people making advertising on Pirate Bay; they got called by these record companies and so on, said we’re gonna sue you for aiding with copyright infringement if you don’t stop paying them for advertising or taking the advertising down. They called the internet provider saying if you don’t take them down we’re gonna sue you for copyright infringement, all of these things. A lot of these companies were of course kind of afraid of that, so that’s why it became really important to run your own internet provider and that’s – and all of the projects I do today as well, we also run the internet providers because it’s critical infrastructure to have. That’s the lesson from that.
JACK: Oh, right. Sure, that’s the obvious solution; if every ISP in Sweden has mandated to not do business with you and ISPs in other countries keep pulling the plug, then yeah, it makes sense. Why not make your own ISP? This way you can’t get the plug pulled out from the internet anymore. They weren’t making their own ISP in Sweden; they would make them in multiple countries all over the world.
PETER: Every time Pirate Bay was – got a new internet connection somewhere, there was also three or four backups waiting that we staged before. The idea was they will work for one or two or three days at least, then we take one or two or three days to get another one, so it was always one more than one backup all the time. [MUSIC] It was just – it was very easy to move around because of the way it was set up, technically. Every time there was a consequence somewhere, so you go to a new country, they will have to have some law in place, they will have to have the police, to have understanding, and they have to raise the question. For us, it was also important that it becomes a political topic in those countries so we moved to Italy, we moved to Ukraine, we moved to Russia, we moved to all of these countries.
JACK: They were getting good at finding ways to host this site all over the world, and when one place would take them down, they’d be back up pretty quick with a new site. At one point they were hosting the site in Mexico.
PETER: The Mexican mob wanted to – they wanted us to pay money; otherwise they would cut out the power. So we got power cuts a few times because we didn’t pay the Mexicans. Yeah, so we’ve been – even power cuts.
JACK: One place they really wanted to get their site hosted at was in North Korea.
PETER: Sweden has a weird relationship with North Korea. They went to Sweden which was kind of socialist and they started doing this thing that they – they basically tricked Sweden into thinking that they are actually super rich and they got a credit from Sweden and bought a lot of Volvo trucks and everything from Sweden; tractors and so on. So, Sweden got scammed by North Korea big time, like huge. Ever since then, North Korea actually has an embassy in Stockholm. It’s the only embassy North Korea has in Europe, is in Stockholm, and Sweden is one of very few countries that actually has an embassy in North Korea. So, one time we actually – on the first of April Fool’s, we actually said that we were going to host Pirate Bay in North Korea as a joke. It was just kinda funny. I knew that if you called the North Korean embassy, they will always say no comment to whatever you ask them, which for most journalists means that there’s something to this.
JACK: So, they did their April Fool’s joke saying they’re moving their servers to North Korea, but it was all just talk. Nothing actually happened. But then, a few years later, it actually did happen, kind of. It’s a technical and geeky prank that they did, but I’ll try to explain it. To start, the people in North Korea just don’t have internet connectivity. That’s just not a thing. The government has an information monopoly over people there and they’re just not allowed to go online to see opposing views, but North Korea is connected to the internet. It’s probably reserved for official business only, so in order to route traffic to and from North Korea, the backbone of the internet, which is the BGP routing protocol, has a map of where North Korean traffic should go. Well, someone, and I don’t know if it was one of these Pirate Bay guys or a friend of The Pirate Bay, they found an insecure internet backbone router which allowed them to get into it and make configuration changes. As they looked at this router, they saw that this router was broadcasting the BGP routes for North Korea, so The Pirate Bay guys were able to reconfigure this router and point the traffic to their router and their servers which meant if you trace the packets, it looked like The Pirate Bay was being [01:15:00] hosted in North Korea which is such a hilarious joke.
PETER: Since no one figured out for over a week, we just sent out a press release saying it’s obvious that we have the same mutual enemy in the United States and North Korea loves us because we’re for messing with the US economy and common enemies and so on. Then we just had pictures taken from the North Korean embassy in Stockholm and all of these things, and we were kind of – it was extremely funny.
JACK: Well, at the same time, North Korea’s internet was down, right?
PETER: Oh, yeah. It’s so sad. None of the North Korean citizens can use the internet for like, a week. It was the worst thing ever that we’ve done, I think. Our all three people that have access to internet, they were out – without working internet for those – that week. I feel it was – it’s an okay trade-off. Seriously, it was an okay – the trolling was very – it was one of the best trollings ever done on a technical level, on a network scale, I think. I really enjoyed the whole thing, especially when people like – the most clever people really have a hard time understanding how this went down. I think it was almost a week before they figured out in the end. Then we got kicked out of that network. The router was – got patched. They put up filters and realized fuck, we’re – that was not good.
JACK: Another thing they tried to do was buy their own country.
PETER: So, I’m a little bit obsessed with nations and micronations and how a country is formed and why a border is totally straight in some countries and how all of these very arbitrary decisions are made. There’s this weird old platform outside of England which is called Sealand or – a few people took it ages ago and said that this is the nation Sealand.
JACK: Okay, so the nation of Sealand has a population of two and that’s on a busy day. I don’t think it occupies any land at all; it’s on the sea in the middle of the English Channel, and it’s just two pillars and a platform connecting them. It’s an old military fort but sometime ago it was taken over by a pirate radio broadcaster who tried to turn it into his own country.
PETER: The people of Sealand or running Sealand, this family, got kind of old and they wanted to sell the country. [MUSIC] We were thinking that sounds like a great thing for Pirate Bay to buy and then make our own laws. This would be – like, for the lols, a super funny thing. So, we just put up a web page called buysealand.com and we linked it on the front page of Pirate Bay and said let’s buy our own nation. I think this was done under the influence of a lot of alcohol. Maybe two or three days later, still drunk, I saw the prince of Sealand talking to Larry King on CNN with one of the heads of Disney about the problems it would be if Pirate Bay actually got to buy Sealand, because they were taking this seriously. I think we raised $50,000 in two, three days. Then they said oh, we want six billion dollars or something like that. So, we always said we’re gonna do something good with the money if we can’t buy Sealand. That was also the first time we had money and all of a sudden we started fighting internally about that, so I ended up buying a lot of rainforest in Brazil to get rid of the money. Then Fredrik and Gottfrid hated me for that afterwards. I probably got scammed, but hopefully not.
JACK: In July 2010, a hacker from Argentina hacked into The Pirate Bay and exposed a bunch of user details. It looks like he got into the admin panel which gave him full control of the website. The Pirate Bay guys took the site down to do some upgrades and saw that this data leak was going on, so they decided to rewrite some of the back end code and resolve this problem. Then they came back up.
PETER: This is around the time I stopped working with Pirate Bay, I think. I can’t remember exactly when I left but I think it’s like 2010, 11, 09, something like that. It was quite a long while ago. But yeah, there’s…
JACK: Okay, so why’d you leave?
PETER: I worked – I had a full-time job. I worked eight times – eight hours per day at least. Maybe ten hours per day on my normal job. Then The Pirate Bay took eight hours per day; people calling, a lot of journalists called every single day. It was like, hours and hours and hours I was talking to journalists. I found it really important to talk to these people because they liked the story of David versus Goliath which meant that we could always talk about the important things for me which was the unfair internet where we don’t have equal access, we have walled gardens, we have paywalls, people that can afford things and people that can’t. I wanted to actually do something about it. I wanted to find something else to do than just working on the same thing [01:20:00] because maybe this is also something very Scandinavian, but we have this tradition of kicking out the old and bringing in something new.
When we started Pirate Bay and we realized this is gonna – it started taking off or whatever you want to call it, we had an agreement that we will close down Pirate Bay on our tenth anniversary because if we decide in the beginning that we’re not gonna let anyone shut us down, but when we’re ten years old, we’re gonna just close the site. We win. That would have been epic. I really wanted to do that. Ended up Pirate Bay didn’t do that. I’m still kind of upset about it. But for me, it’s really been really important to find another angle of attacking important questions, like reevaluate new tools, new views of the same problems in society. I left Pirate Bay because it was kind of the same thing going on and on and on again; same questions, same kind of opponents, and I wanted to mix it up.
So, I created a payment system for how to create – or get paid for doing things on the internet which is called Flattr that I rather wanted to focus on instead of Pirate Bay, so I left to work on that instead. Also, I really hated working with Gottfrid and Fredrik ‘cause I think they were assholes. Total objectively, they are assholes. Also subjectively, they are assholes. They probably agree but it’s – I’m the asshole. We don’t like each other that much, any of us. It gets kind of tired working with people for too long when you don’t like each other, even though that’s been kind of important that we can focus on the things we did agree on. I think that was very effective but it’s also really annoying being associated with people you don’t like.
JACK: [MUSIC] The trial for their appeal came around and the courts decided they were guilty again, this time shortening their prison sentence by a few months but increasing their fines.
PETER: It’s not a fine. We never got fines. That’s an American thing, yeah.
JACK: I don’t want to say restitution; it’s a penalty of some kind. I don’t know what it’s called.
PETER: They forced us having a license agreement but the interesting thing is that’s a clever move of the opponents because if we got fines, they would be – money we would have to pay to the state. In Sweden, that would expire after ten years, so then we would not have debts in – forever, but if it’s personal debt based on a deal with the record companies, it will be forever. That was their – it’s a life sentence. Fines would have been better.
JACK: [MUSIC] Peter appealed again which means he didn’t immediately have to go to prison and was free to go home and even travel. This would be his last appeal, though. After this, whatever the courts decided, he’d have to comply or as he puts it, the state would have to come get him and force him to comply. In the meantime, The Pirate Bay continued to stay up, becoming more and more resilient over time. Another thing that happened at some point was that they got their BGP route sink-holed. This is a routing protocol used across the internet. Millions of routers around the world all speak this same protocol to know how to transmit packets everywhere. Somehow, in a coordinated move, major backbone providers stopped forwarding traffic destined to The Pirate Bay.
Again, this is another astonishing, incredible thing to do. The job of a router is to get packets where they need to go. Its job is not to block or filter traffic. A firewall’s job is to block traffic, but not only that; they were blocking The Pirate Bay’s BGP routes. BGP is like a map of the internet. It’s a protocol, a standard, and it shouldn’t have blocks at that level. It would be like if your GPS suddenly stopped showing you certain locations because the GPS provider didn’t want you going there. It’s just crazy to think that a GPS provider would ever restrict people from seeing certain parts of the map, right? It’s just wrong to do that and that’s similar to what it’s like when these BGP routes get blocked, which is almost completely unheard of. I bet all my network engineers who are listening right now have never heard of an internet backbone provider having a naughty list that sinkholes certain BGP routes.
Again, it’s going way too far for an ISP to do that. But if we back up for a second and look at this, they’ve been taken down at all points of the network. The endpoint is where their servers are that are hosted, and this has been raided and seized, and ISPs have disconnected them many times. The midpoint is the BGP [01:25:00] routing table which is sink-holing them, and the other endpoint is that users are getting blocked by their ISPs and DNS servers. Users who got blocked could still access the site using Tor or VPN to get around these roadblocks because the site was still up and operational. It’s kind of funny that when these roadblocks would force people to use a VPN, it just made it harder for media giants to find them. [MUSIC] In 2012, the final appeal was set to take place but the supreme court of Sweden refused to hear the appeal which meant the previous sentence and verdict was upheld. This meant it was time for Peter, Fredrik, and Gottfrid to all serve their prison time.
I think by then, Fredrik and Gottfrid had moved to some southeast Asian countries, making it harder for the police to find them. But what’s interesting is immediately after the appeal concluded, The Pirate Bay switched domains. See, this whole time it was hosted at thepiratebay.org but the .org top-level domain is run by an American company so in theory, now that the last appeal went through, the US authorities could issue a seizure of the .org domain, so they switched it to thepiratebay.se, and .se is a Swedish top-level domain. Anyway, as you can imagine, even though Peter was sentenced to almost a year in prison, he didn’t voluntarily go.
PETER: No, I decided to run for office, as any criminal would do. I’m a Finnish citizen and we’re like the kids – kid brother to Sweden. A lot of people in Finland are upset that they still have to learn Swedish in school. There’s a quite big movement from the nationalist movement of Finland that they hate immigrants and they hate Swedish people. It very often intertwines. So, I ran in Finland, saying like if you hate Sweden, you should vote for me because I – if I get into the European Union parliament, I get diplomatic immunity which means I don’t have to go to prison which means that Sweden would be really upset.
JACK: Well, did you really feel that way? Did you feel animosity towards Swedish people?
PETER: No, but for me as a left-wing person, a socialist, I think it was super funny to take the racist votes because they had to decide are you gonna vote for just a racist or for one who really – it would really be annoying to Sweden which you probably hate a little bit more than just normal immigrants. That’s kind of like the Finnish situation, a little bit. So, I kind of stole votes from people I don’t like and made a joke out of it because it was an absurd situation that I should go to prison. It was absurd that I got listed on the Interpol list. So, I just made a joke out of it. Kind of funny that if you – if I actually got into European Union parliament, I would have gotten diplomatic immunity and they couldn’t have arrested me. The case would be so old after I would have been in office that it would have been expired. So, it was kind of a hack. You talk a lot about hacks but it’s a different level of hack. It’s a political kind of social engineering stunt. I just found it too funny not to actually attempt it. So, that was kind of the thing. It didn’t work out; I didn’t get enough votes but it wasn’t too far away, actually, from getting enough votes. Then, of course, I went to prison after that. [MUSIC] They arrested me like, two days after the election.
JACK: It sounds like all three of you were in prison around the same time, but The Pirate Bay was up at the same time.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. Imagine.
JACK: How did that happen?
PETER: Have you seen 2001?
JACK: A Space Odyssey? Yeah.
PETER: Yeah. Do you remember Hal 9000?
PETER: He’s the guy running Pirate Bay. It’s some sort of autonomous machine, you know? That happens. I’ve been sued later on. The most ironic lawsuit is actually going on in Finland where they said that I must be responsible for Pirate Bay still to this day because when I left, I didn’t shut off the machines and they could potentially still be running and they would be the machines still responsible for copyright infringement. But basically I think that it would be impossible to shut down The Pirate Bay. It’s like, has its own life. It’s kind of mythical. Yeah. It’s way beyond us. I don’t believe in any religion but I think that The Pirate Bay is some sort of supernatural being now. Then I ended up in high-security prison with like, [01:30:00] serial killers and biker gang leaders and so on which was an interesting period.
JACK: Yeah, that’s one way to describe it.
PETER: But it is fucking interesting, man. When would you ever hang out with people like that, that you actually know are criminal? A lot of – you probably hang out with criminals that you don’t know are criminals, but these are obviously criminals. They’ve ended up there for obvious reasons and you probably have heard about a few of them if you live in the same country. You know, you’re not enemies. They’re not your enemy. The only enemies – you have the same enemy. It’s like, the prison wardens are, the guards, and then the system is kind of your enemy. It’s like a boys club, more or less. You’re not afraid of them. You’re more interested. If you’re not gonna mess with them, they’re not gonna mess with you and there’s no point in doing that. Everyone just wants to go out and get time passed and get along. So, I’ve learned a lot, quite a lot, actually, especially how to not smuggle drugs. That’s been the biggest lesson. Like, I know how to not to do things.
JACK: [MUSIC] Once they got out of prison, the takedown attempts didn’t stop. The Swedish court ruled to seize the domain since it was using the .se top-level domain. Sweden was able to take control of that but quickly after that, The Pirate Bay just came up with six other top-level domains. There were piratebay.gs, .la, .vg, .am, .mn, and .gd. This move was coined by some as Hydra Bay because when you cut off the head of The Pirate Bay, six more just grow right back. Peter got out of prison in 2014, served his punishment, and was no longer with The Pirate Bay, so he was just free to do whatever. But he still had to pay back those penalties that the courts put on him.
PETER: Yeah, so it started with forty-something million Swedish and now I think it’s a little bit over 120 with interest. So, now the goal is to be the guy with the most amount of debt in Sweden ever, in history. North Korea has a debt to Sweden of two billion Swedish but I calculated in 2052, I think, my debt will be bigger than North Korea’s debt to Sweden. I’m thinking it’s easier to get the money from North Korea than from me.
JACK: So, what’s my take on copyright and piracy? Well, it changes over time as new technologies come out and societal norms change. One of the things that the digital age has done is it’s taken the power away from the traditional gatekeepers. Like, in the past you used to have to get a record deal in order to get your music out there, but now you can just publish your music directly to Spotify or YouTube. You want to write a book? Well, you don’t need a publisher anymore. Amazon made it so you can publish any eBook you write for free and get it listed in the world’s biggest book store. Or you can create a movie and make it available to billions of people by just uploading it to YouTube. We’re now living in an era where artists are more empowered than ever.
So yeah, I think the copyright system is antiquated and simply can’t work effectively on a global scale. The IRAA has failed to eliminate piracy and for the past two decades, they’ve spent millions of dollars annoying and enraging the artists’ fanbase. By suing them, we’ll never fix the problem by attacking fans, because it’s the fans that make the artists popular, and that’s what makes the artists money. If you eliminate piracy altogether, you also torpedo the ability for many artists to have breakout hits, because things just don’t spread very well when you require all listeners to be licensed properly. In fact, fans have spoken and they made it clear that they want convenience and are willing to pay a fair price for content.
When it’s a lot easier to download a song versus going to the store and buying a CD, then people will download songs. Napster showed us how easy that can be, and then Apple’s iTunes turned downloading music into a very profitable business where you can download music for a price. Then Spotify made it even more convenient so that you don’t have to pay per song. Instead, you get unlimited access to all the music in their catalogue. While paying for Spotify is entirely optional, many people choose to do it. But I’m afraid we’re gonna see another uptick in pirated TV and movies soon. When cable companies were charging $70 a month for access to video content, Netflix came in, made it way cheaper and way more convenient. In fact, I think a lot of people who were pirating stopped because Netflix gave them the convenience they wanted at a fair price and Spotify was giving them the music they wanted.
But now a lot more companies are jumping in with Netflix. You have Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney +, HBO Max, CBS All Access, the NBC Peacock, and more. If you pay for all these, you’re looking at $80 a month which is how much cable TV cost when people started abandoning it, and it’s far more inconvenient to try to search in seven places for the show you want to watch. This is going to cause such a problem that people will [01:35:00] find it more convenient to just pirate shows because they could have all the shows they want in one app instead of seven. Oh, and Plex is that one app; all the movies you download can be played easily right there and you can also share the movies you downloaded with your friends. So, I really think that if the movie industry wants less piracy, they should respect the consumer more and deliver the content in a way that’s easy to use and isn’t too expensive.
When they’re all competing like they are now and if that’s what’s causing the rise in piracy now, you have to wonder if they even care about piracy since they’re the reason why it’s going up and they’re also making a ton of money at the same time. But that’s just the big budget TV and movie studios. Those shows cost millions of dollars to make and have a crew of like, over a hundred people. Musicians and authors can create wonderful content with way fewer people on a much lower budget. I think with our current technological status, we should be focusing on how to inspire artists to create wonderful things for us to enjoy. How can we give them what they need so that they can enrich our lives more? My favorite music came out in my lifetime but look at any kid today and you’ve got to realize that their favorite music hasn’t even come out yet.
We want new artists to make an impact on us and that should be our focus; movies, books, and music are considered intellectual property and intellectual property is the fabric of our culture. When a song is played by more people, the value of that artist just grows bigger, even if they give their content away free. The more a piece of intellectual property spreads, the better the creator does. Now they have a fanbase. Now they have influence. Now they have people’s attention, and that’s what this is all about; attention, because you can monetize attention. I don’t think what we have is a copyright problem. I think we have a marketing and middle man problem, because historically a label or production company would help market your stuff and distribute it and collect money for you. Major platforms like Amazon, YouTube, and Spotify help in some ways by being a place where you can get a lot of exposure and they’ll pay you for the content that gets consumed.
Crowdfunding is very exciting to me like Kickstarter or Patreon or even Twitch because places like this allow fans to pay creators directly. It doesn’t matter if the creator is giving the content away free or not; when they make a significant impact on their fans, their fans will be there to help and fund them further. The thing is, when someone appreciates the impact you’ve made on their lives, they’ll want to pay for it if they can. Those who can’t can just be little marketers and help spread the word for the artists, making them even more popular. You simply can’t be a breakout artist if you make art exclusively for people who have enough disposable income to pay for it. You end up excluding way too many people in the world. People will always pay artists for things that they want but can’t make themselves and especially in this connected, digital society we live in.
I think giving artists more tools to monetize their content is the best solution we have now. This way, even if the content is given away free or pirated, fans that love it can come and pay for it. The world is changing and it’s becoming more common now for fans to just give monthly donations to their favorite creators like on Patreon, or go chuck someone some money over on Kickstarter or buy merch from other creators they like. Artists who are onboard with this realize the more impact they make on their fans, the more their fans will pay, so they worry a lot less about piracy because they have that direct connection with their fans no matter how they consume the content. Are you still pirating these days?
PETER: Of course. Aren’t you?
JACK: I’m afraid to admit it, though. That’s the thing. How come you can be so open about it and not worried about being fined or something?
PETER: Well, you think someone’s gonna – you can just claim to be a kopimist and ask them if they actually violated your religious rights when they found out that you were copying. You can also use the VPN, you know? But of course, there’s – pirating is the best way to find stuff. Yeah, that never changed. I still use Spotify and everything else. The irony of it all is people think that this is something which happened before, but Pirate Bay is bigger than ever in terms of numbers. It’s just that the rest of the internet grew faster than The Pirate Bay. It never went away. It’s like this – it’s Hal 9000 again. I think it’s been growing 2% per month forever.
JACK: I think I just figured it out; so, Hal 9000 was in outer space and that could mean that you’ve got a satellite in space which hosts The Pirate Bay which – good luck going to outer space to stop that. It could just be going perpetually forever up there.
PETER: Do you think Earth is not outer space?
JACK: In order for a website to work, a lot of other systems and services also have to be working. The Pirate Bay has been attacked in almost every way possible but none of these attacks have been successful at taking them down permanently. The only thing left would be for someone like Microsoft or Google or Apple to block The Pirate Bay in their browsers [01:40:00] because they could. Google could put a rule in Chrome just blocking all traffic to The Pirate Bay so anyone who uses Chrome can’t get to the site, or Microsoft could put a block within Windows to not allow traffic to The Pirate Bay. But as far as I know, no browser or operating system has blocked websites because they’ve been on some naughty list. I think it would be a gross overreach for them to do that.
When you buy an operating system or use a browser, you really don’t want them deciding where you can and can’t go. It’s one thing for them to block insecure sites or sites trying to exploit my computer, but it’s another thing for them to stop users from going to sites based on their ethics or what they deem okay or not. But it’s fascinating to me at least to see all the many ways that you can be kicked off the internet and how you can get around that and back on. The Pirate Bay is up and online right now and they even use thepiratebay.org as their address. But I don’t know the current state of the site, like where it’s hosted or who’s running it. But it’ll be interesting to see how many more years it continues to operate out there in space somewhere.
(OUTRO): [OUTRO MUSIC] A big thank-you to Peter for sharing this story with us. You can find Peter on Twitter. His name there is @brokep. Peter started a company called Njalla which is a DNS privacy service. If you own a domain and want the utmost privacy, check out N-J-A-L.L-A. That’s Njalla. Hey, do you like this show? Is it something you want to hear more of? Well, consider donating to it through Patreon. Direct donations really do help the show and it just keeps things going really well, so please visit patreon.com/darknetdiaries and consider supporting the show. If you do, you’re gonna get some bonus episodes and an ad-free feed. So, thanks. This show is made by me, the super-leecher, Jack Rhysider. Editing help this episode by the right-clicking Damienne, and our theme music is by the double-tapped Breakmaster Cylinder. Even though Linux is actually pretty user-friendly, it’s just particular about what users it’s friendly with, this is Darknet Diaries. Oh, and stick around because at the end here I’ll play the full version of that sea shanty you heard at the beginning. It’s written by Dade or @0xdade on Twitter and performed by Tony Virelli.
[OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]
[END OF RECORDING]