OK The Pirate Bay

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The Pirate Bay's Logo

The Pirate Bay is one of the largest and most resilient BitTorrent websites currently on the web.[1] The domain was founded in 2003 by the Swedish think tank Piratbyran and allows users to search, download, and contribute torrent files.[2] These torrent files create peer-to-peer file sharing using the BitTorrent algorithm. Due to the nature of the files shared, the website has fallen under many ethical and legal concerns that led to some countries censoring the website entirely. Despite the problems and issues the company faces with copyright and piracy, the website is still fully alive and active today.


The Pirate Bay was founded by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij in September of 2003 under the Swedish anti-copyright group Seppala, Timothy J.[3] It is a web portal that functions on the BitTorrent network, allowing for users to download copyrighted content without charge. The Pirate Bay acheived mainstream popularity in 2006 after its website was shut down for three days during a raid of its Stockholm Data Center by Swedish police.[4] By the time The Pirate Bay came back online, notoriety from the raid drove more traffic to the site than it had previously garnered and attracted more scrutiny by law enforcement.[5] In 2012, The Pirate Bay moved to magnet links and stopped offering torrent files for larger torrents. This allowed the website to be able to be run with proxies. Since The Pirate Bay is censored in some nations, the proxies allowed IP addresses to be masked and thus brought in millions of new users.

Legal Concerns

The website has been at the center of many legal and regulatory actions as a result of the ability to download copyrighted content. The founders have been accused of aiding in the creation of copyrighted material available to the public and in its distribution.[6] Several nations have blacklisted the website and blocked access by their citizens. Netherlands placed orders on Dutch Internet service providers requiring them to block access to the Pirate Bay entirely.[7] In the US, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills were created to help stop internet piracy. Under SOPA, it was made a criminal offense to be caught streaming copyrighted content, and as a result of its implications, was widely opposed by many of the internet's most prominent figures - including Wikipedia and Google. The bill was postponed due to heavy resistance until a wider agreement on it's consequences could be agreed upon. These bills were drafted in support of those concerned about the affect of internet piracy on the US economy and US business interests.

Ethical Concerns

Due to the nature of the website, The Pirate Bay faces a conflux of ethical issues. It acts as a hub where any album, movie, application, program, and textbook is available for free and on demand. Despite being illegal for users to download copyrighted material, virtually no user has faced a form of criminal prosecution. The ability to mask IP addresses and the anonymity of proxies has helped aid this evasion of prosecution while also creating even more ethical issues. The international community widely accepts The Pirate Bay as the largest culprit in the global copyright infringement yet to this day the website is up and running to its full capacity.

The world has pressed governments to stop this infringement of intellectual property yet despite raids and new laws the website has been fully functional and only increased in users. Furthermore, some of the members of the founding team for the website were found guilty of copyright infringement yet only faced three years in jail. This did nothing to fully stop the functions of the website. After the 2006 raid from the Swedish government, the website opened up and created back up's of their servers in both Belgium and Russia, ensuring the longevity of the platform.[8]

Many wonder how the website seems to continue to function despite the various raids and acts by law enforcement to stop it. To answer this we must look at two important aspects in regards to The Pirate Bay's operations.[9]

First, the website stopped allowing the use of files that were shared by 10 or more people. In 2012 the website moved to magnet links.[10] Magnet links, rather than being identified by location, are identified by content and data. This effectively protects user's IP addresses and allows for the use of proxies - further masking who is downloading each file.

Second, the website switched over to cloud hosting providers in 2012. This cut costs, improved speed, and enhanced user security. Now, The Pirate Bay can operate seamlessly across borders since servers are not required to be on the same provider. Many commercial cloud hosting providers do not even know they are hosts - this proves to be an ethical issue of its own. As a result of this, the basic features keeping the website alive are owned and operated by The Pirate Bay, they all just exist in separate international locations with the important data backed up elsewhere.[11]

This phenomenon can be traced back to Moor's Law. As cited within it, '[with the rise of] technological revolutions increase their social impact, ethical problems increase.' This has to do with the ripping, mixing, burning of music and software alike. This phenomenon happens because eventually revolutionary technology will provide numerous novel opportunities for action for which well thought out ethical policies have not been developed. When looking at The Pirate Bay, it can clearly be seen that this is exactly the case.

When discussing ethics, we can talk about 4 categories; Privacy, Accuracy, Property, and Access. With regards to The Pirate Bay, virtually all of these categories are violated. Accuracy, who is responsible and accountable for the content is unknown. People are able to post anonymously without repercussion. Property, who owns the information and channels is also unknown. Users are unaware whether the content posted was purchased or ripped off, and even if the content was purchased there are rules limiting posting content such as that as it results to copyright violations. Yet these are ignored entirely and presumed to be meaningless with a website that offers anonymity such as The Pirate Bay.


Twelve years have passed since its inception and The Pirate Bay is still in business. As the issue of piracy has been happening for decades, coming up with a simple, catch-all solution is seemingly impossible. Law enforcement has tried to fight copyright infringement for years but this has proven to be both costly and difficult to achieve. Due to the shear scale of which copyrighted material is downloaded from The Pirate Bay, it is difficult to pinpoint one person to make an example of them. The chances of being caught are very low, making many unafraid of using the website at all. This task seems to be one currently without answers because of the progression and advancement of information in our society today. Technology is developing in a path that gives access to copyrighted files with ease and without doubt. In the Internet age dominated by the debate between freedom and legal ownership, The Pirate Bay continues to serve as a service to cater to those that believe all information on the Web should be free.


  1. de Looper , Christian. “History of The Pirate Bay: Internet Outlaw or Internet File-Sharing Freedom Fighter?” Tech Times, 17 Dec. 2014, www.techtimes.com/articles/22362/20141217/history-pirate-bay.htm
  2. de Looper , Christian. “History of The Pirate Bay: Internet Outlaw or Internet File-Sharing Freedom Fighter?” Tech Times, 17 Dec. 2014, www.techtimes.com/articles/22362/20141217/history-pirate-bay.htm
  3. The Pirate Bay shutdown: the whole story (so far)." Engadget, 16 Dec. 2014,https://www.engadget.com/2014/12/16/pirate-bay-shutdown-explainer/
  4. Kravets, David. "May 31, 2006: Pirate Bay Raided, Shuttered." Wired, 31 May 2011, [1]
  5. Norton, Quinn. "Secrets of the Pirate Bay." Wired, 16 Aug. 2006, [2]
  6. Friedman, Jillian. “Can the Law Identify Pirate Bay Users Without Invading Our Privacy?” HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada, 9 Feb. 2015,www.huffingtonpost.ca/jillian-friedman/pirate-bay-shut-down_b_6303120.html
  7. Friedman, Jillian. “Can the Law Identify Pirate Bay Users Without Invading Our Privacy?” HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada, 9 Feb. 2015, www.huffingtonpost.ca/jillian-friedman/pirate-bay-shut-down_b_6303120.html.
  8. Roettgers, Janko. “10 Years After Raid, The Pirate Bay Remains Alive and Well.” Variety, 1 June 2016, variety.com/2016/digital/opinion/pirate-bay-raid-ten-years-ago-1201785938/.
  9. “The Pirate Bay: An Ethical & Technical Conundrum.” Georgia Political Review, 5 Feb. 2015, georgiapoliticalreview.com/the-pirate-bay-an-ethical-technical-conundrum/.
  10. “The Pirate Bay: An Ethical & Technical Conundrum.” Georgia Political Review, 5 Feb. 2015, georgiapoliticalreview.com/the-pirate-bay-an-ethical-technical-conundrum/
  11. Aimee van Wynsberghe, Jeroen van der Ham, (2015) "Ethical considerations of using information obtained from online file sharing sites: The case of the piratebay", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 13 Issue: 3/4, pp.256-267, https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-10-2014-0044