The Pirate Bay

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The Pirate Bay's Logo

The Pirate Bay, self-proclaimed "Galaxy's most resilient BitTorrent site", is one of the largest file-sharing websites in the world. The Pirate Bay's Alexa rankings place it in the top 100 most-visited sites in the world and in the top 20 in the site's home country of Sweden.[1] The site's popularity has lead to various legal and ethical concerns and censorship by some countries and internet service providers. Despite these ethical concerns, the site is still active today. The founders of the site are also major supporters of other anti-copyright groups both in Sweden and internationally.

History and Overview

The Pirate Bay was founded in 2003 by a Swedish organization known as The Piracy Bureau (Piratbyrån) but has been an independent organization since 2004. The website was first run by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij. [2] Since Sweden at the time didn't have any sort of filesharing network of it's own, the Piratbyrån decided to utilize the relatively new Bittorrent protocol in the design of their site [3]. Since then the Pirate Bay's goal is to be a reliable tracker for torrent files (an explanation of torrenting technology can be found here) and to serve as an open repository for all such torrent files. The founders of The Pirate Bay wanted the site to be the start of a filesharing community in Sweden and Scandinavia, and originally focussed on having local content available on their site. The first of the Pirate Bay's collection of servers was a laptop of one of the founders, which quickly became overwhelmed as The Pirate Bay garnered interest from not only Sweden but around the world.

The administrators of The Pirate Bay are as hands-off as possible and will only remove torrents if the name is inconsistent with the content of the torrent. They've been accused of copyright violations by several national and international organizations and been raided by law enforcement authorities on several occasions as well. However, to this day they are still available as one of the world's most popular torrent sites.[4][5]


The Pirate Bay is a website that allows users to search for magnet links. These magnet links are used to initiate peer-to-peer networks between users which can then be used to transfer files. These magnet links are organized by categories such as Audio, Applications, Video, Games, Porn, and Other. In order to use magnet links the user must also have a bitTorrent client downloaded. Beyond just searching for magnet links the website also allows for users to browse them by category, popularity, and time posted.[6]


With it's massive popularity throughout the years the Pirate Bay has always needed a steady flow of money to afford hosting the website. The Pirate Bay has come under criticism for accepting donations from various right wing groups and individuals. The most notable being Carl Lundstrom a right wing entrepreneur whose donation made it possible for pirate bay to survive in its early stages.[7] Beyond high profile donations the website receives funds through public donations. From 2004 to 2006 the site had a donate link that would grant users perks such as no advertisements and VIP status on the site. In 2013 the site published an address for users to donate Bitcoin and Litecoin. Aside from donations the site also makes money through merchandise. Various pirate bay related products can be bought on a webstore linked to the Pirate Bay website. The main form of income that Pirate Bay receives is through advertisement. It is debated whether or not Pirate Bay is profitable. During a 2009 trial the prosecuting team alleged that Pirate Bay was making over 1.4 million dollars USD a year. The police and the Pirate Bay's lawyers put the revenue number closer to 100,000. It is unclear whether or not the server and bandwidth costs exceed the revenue that Pirate Bay brings in.[8]

The Pirate Bay Trial

The founders of Pirate Bay, Gottfrid Svartholm Varg (middle) and Peter Sundin (right)

In January of 2008 a lawsuit was brought against Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, and Carl Lundstrom (all major forces behind The Pirate Bay) by Swedish prosecutors for charges of copyright infringement. Half of the 34 charges were almost immediately dropped but the other half resulted in Neij, Svartholm, Sudne, and Lundstrom receiving a fine of 30 million Swedish krona (which was later increased) and being sentenced to a year in jail (which was later decreased) [9]. The four defendants attempted to appeal to the Swedish Supreme Court in 2012 but was denied [10].

During the trial, which made headlines in Swedish newspapers for several days straight, the defendants, including Svartholm and Neij, based much of their defense on the fact that they didn't know the legality of their actions and various contracts and agreements they'd signed. Notably, when Neij was asked about a contract he'd signed when he registered The Pirate Bay's domain name, in which he agreed that he'd oversee operations for the site, his defense was "But I didn't read it." [11]


Various countries worldwide have attempted to censor or block The Pirate Bay in some form or another (a full list can be found here) but there are some countries whose efforts are of note: [12]

  • The United States of America: both Facebook and Microsoft have been restricting sharing of The Pirate Bay links on their services, citing security concerns for users and the possibility of users breaking their Terms of Service by clicking on the links [13][14]
  • The United Kingdom: in February of 2012 the British High Court ruled that all major internet service providers in the UK must block The Pirate Bay's site because of possible implications for breaking copyright law. This ban was essentially ineffective due to various ways to technologically circumvent the block and The Pirate Bay actually was noted as saying that they should write a "thank-you note" because their traffic actually took a bump up. [15]
  • Sweden: Swedish ISP Black Internet, which had already complied with a court order to stop hosting for The Pirate Bay (the site had since found hosting elsewhere) went beyond the court-ordered injunction to block it's customers from viewing The Pirate Bay's website. Black Internet allegedly created this block to avoid potential punitive fines. [16]

Ethical Issues

Considerations for The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay is at the heart of the international anti-copyright movement, called "the most visible member of a burgeoning international anti-copyright" [17]. Other activist organizations include various registered and non-registered Pirate political parties, which are mostly active in Europe [18]. The Pirate Party goals include a "fundamental reform" of copyright law, abolishing the patent system, and limiting commercial copyright to five years[19]. The Pirate Bay furthers these goals by operating their website as a free way to copy and share for non-commercial use.

Although artists are historically opposed to anti-copyright groups some of them take the opposite approach and use The Pirate Bay as an opportunity for viral marketing. These artists work with The Pirate Bay (casually rebranded as The Promo Bay) to make their works available on The Pirate Bay's website for free. The Promo Bay has helped promote the band Throes+The Shine, the videogame McPixel, and the film Ha<<itat. One recording artist, Dan Bull, made his single available on The Pirate Bay and expressed the goal of "conquering the pop charts" to show "'them' that there's another way."[20]

Criticism against The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay's stance on copyright law has made it the posterchild for internet piracy. One of the main organizations combating internet piracy is the Recording Industry Association of America, who claims that internet piracy like that which The Pirate Bay enables is responsible for billions of dollars of lost revenue and the decline of record sales. [21] Another organization, the Motion Picture Association of America, has said that The Pirate Bay "enables rampant copyright theft" on the internet and calls the operators of the site "criminals." [22]

Apart from copyright concerns The Pirate Bay has also faced criticism as to the type of torrents that it allows to be hosted on the site, including autopsy photos of murdered children from a Swedish criminal investigation. Despite pleas from the father of the children the site refused to take down the torrent in question. The Pirate Bay spokesman said of the issue "I don’t think it’s our job to judge of something is ethical or unethical or what other people want to put out on the internet."[23]

Peer to peer network 1.png


On May 31, 2006, Swedish police raided ten locations in a crackdown on the Pirate Bay. Several servers were confiscated including those belonging to advocacy group Piratbyrån, and the site shut down for three days as a result of the raids[24][25]. The site quickly resurfaced on temporary hosting in the Netherlands, and experienced a popularity boost from the press generated by the raid. Before the end of 2006, the Pirate Bay returned to Sweden, this time placing redundant servers in two other countries. This was done so that if the site were shut down in one country, it would only take a few minutes to get it back online[26].

On October 17, 2012, Winston Brahma of The Pirate Bay announced that the site would now be hosted by several cloud companies in multiple countries. The Pirate Bay currently owns and operates a load balancer and a transit router, which are located in separate countries from the cloud servers. These help prevent the cloud service providers from knowing exactly what they are hosting, and protect the privacy of users. They also work to make a shutdown of the Pirate Bay backed by only one country ineffective. If the load balancer loses contact with the servers for more than eight hours, the servers automatically shut down, eliminating the ability of the police to access their data[27][28][29].

As of 2012, The Pirate Bay has also toyed wit the idea of actualizing their vision of cloud computing, literally. The Pirate Bay posted on their official blog that they are planning to experiment putting servers into low space orbit using radio-controlled drones to avoid being raided by ground-based police. While they will continue to only host the magnet links that they have been hosting terrestrially, this will make raiding and shutting down their servers much more onerous.[30]

In countries where the site has been banned, some proxies continue to try to offer access to the public. This has caused some to take legal action. Specifically, the music industry in the United Kingdom has threatened legal action in order to ensure the artists receive their due compensation.[31]

See Also


  1. Alexa Top Sites |
  2. [1]
  3. The Pirate Bay Celebrates it's 9th Anniversity - Torrent Freak |
  4. About - The Pirate Bay |
  5. The Pirate Bay Celebrates it's 9th Anniversity - Torrent Freak |
  6. [2]
  7. [3]
  8. [4]
  9. Charges filed against the Pirate Bay four - |
  10. Pirate Bay founders' prison sentence final as Supreme Court appeal is rejected - Torrent Freak |
  11. Pirate Bay: we don't know nothin' about org charts, contracts - Ars Technica |
  12. The Pirate Bay - Wikiped |
  13. Facebook email censorship is legally dubious, experts say - Wired |
  14. Microsoft censors The Pirate Bay links from IM - The Register |
  15. The Pirate Bay claims record number of visitors following ISP ban - Crave |
  16. Swedish ISP bars users from The Pirate Bay - The Local |
  17. The Internet sure loves its outlaws - LA Times |,0,5609754.story
  18. Pirate Party - Wikipedia |
  19. Piratpartiat |
  20. The Pirate Bay |
  21. Who music theft hurts - RIAA |
  23. Arboga autopsy photos on The Pirate Bay - The Local |
  24. Swedish police scupper Piratebay - The Register |
  25. May 31, 2006: Pirate Bay Raided, Shuttered - Wired |
  26. Secrets of The Pirate Bay - Wired |
  27. The Pirate Cloud - The Pirate Bay |
  28. The Pirate Bay moves to the cloud, bcomes raid-proof - Torrent Freak |
  29. The Pirate Bay moves to the cloud to evade the police - Extreme Tech |
  30. The Pirate Bay Plans To Launch Space Servers |
  31. BBC article on Pirate Party

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