View Full Version : Wired: Secrets of the Pirate Bay

Hammock Parties
08-17-2006, 12:24 AM

MALMO, Sweden -- It's Saturday night and I'm lounging on a living room sofa surrounded by lanky twenty-somethings in shorts and deep tans. Across from me, a wire emerges from a green Xbox -- modified to stream movies from its hard drive -- and snakes past two dusty turntables and into a video projector, which is displaying a menu of movies that would make Blockbuster jealous.

Peter, this living room's owner, selects a title, and the text "For Your Consideration" fades onto the screen, marking this movie as a leaked screener from the Academy Awards: Someone in Hollywood ripped their review DVD copy of the film and uploaded it to the internet, where it eventually found its way to this hacked game console. Peter chuckles, others cheer.

And barely a month after Swedish police raided their server room and carted two administrators and their legal help off in handcuffs, the lanky co-operator of the Pirate Bay -- the most popular and hunted piracy site in the world -- settles back to watch a pirated copy of Spanglish.

Harbored by a country where 1.2 million out of 9 million citizens tell the census that they engage in file sharing, the Pirate Bay is as much a national symbol as it is a website. Protected by weak Swedish copyright laws, the Bay survived and grew as movie studio lawyers felled competing BitTorrent trackers one-by-one. Today it boasts an international user base and easily clears 1 million unique visitors a day. New movies sometimes appear at the top of the site's most-popular list before flickering onto a single theater screen.

With its worldwide following, many here see the Bay as the devil on Sweden's shoulder, legitimizing contempt for intellectual property rights and threatening to saddle the country with a lasting reputation for international lawlessness. "It's very difficult to make people act legal when they've been doing something for some time," says Marianne Levin, professor of private law and intellectual property at the University of Stockholm. "In Sweden the debate (on file sharing) came very late."

So when, on May 31, Swedish police finally arrived with a search warrant and carted off enough servers to fill three rental trucks, the entertainment industry was quick to proclaim victory. The Motion Picture Association of America issued a press release announcing a milestone. "The actions today taken in Sweden serve as a reminder to pirates all over the world that there are no safe harbors for internet copyright thieves," trumpeted MPAA chairman Dan Glickman.

But the three stewards of the site -- 27-year-old Peter; Fredrik Neij, 28; and Gottfrid Svartholm, 21 -- were already preparing their response.

Coordinating with volunteers around the world in an IRC chat room, the trio scrambled to relaunch the Bay at a new location. Peter -- a slim, dark haired, dark eyed geek -- didn't sleep in those first few days, fielding a stream of phone calls from the press while confronting the technical challenge of resurrecting a high-traffic site with a partial database and all-new hardware. "They stole most of our backups as well," he says. "I managed to get some backups out of the servers while the police were in the building." (Peter wasn't arrested with the others, and remains anonymous.)

They took the reconstructed data to temporary hosting in the Netherlands, and three days after the raid, the Pirate Bay reappeared on the internet.

So fast was the Bay's rebound that some news articles reporting the site's demise went to print after it was back up, recalls Peter. The resuscitated site had a few glitches, but the resurrection was remarkable in that it had never really happened before; when the major American rights holders take a website down, it stays down. The pirates delivered a victory message to the MPAA, and the Swedish equivalent, APB, through the site's reverse-DNS, which now read: hey.mpaa.and.apb.bite.my.shiny.metal.ass.thepiratebay.org.

Thanks to the press generated by the raid, the Pirate Bay instantly became more popular than ever. The Bay's T-shirt vendor alone now has four people working full time to fill orders for apparel sporting the site's pirate ship logo, and a skull-and-crossbones with a cassette tape as the skull. "They are behind something like 2,000," says Neij. "They are working day and night."

The pirates have since moved the Bay's hosting back to Sweden, where they've built technological bulwarks against another takedown, law-hardening the Bay's network architecture with a system of redundant servers that spans three nations. Shutting down the site in any single country will only cripple the Pirate Bay for as long as it takes for its fail-over scripts to execute, a gap measurable in minutes.

The various servers' locations are obscured behind a load balancer configured to lie, the crew says. Once the failsafe is triggered, a determined adversary with an international team of litigators might be able to track down the servers, but by that time -- according to the plan -- the pirates will have deployed mirrors in even more countries. In theory, the corporate lawyers will eventually tire of this game of international copyright Whack-A-Mole.

With all that in place, crew member Fredrik Neij says he welcomes the possibility of another raid. "I really want the pleasure of it being down three minutes, then up again."

More on pages 2 and 3 at the link! HUZZAH!

08-17-2006, 12:45 AM
Cool write up.

Hammock Parties
08-17-2006, 12:47 AM
I seriously love these guys. They are my heroes.

08-17-2006, 01:32 AM
Damned Pirates are going to make the price go up for the people that actually pay.

08-17-2006, 01:42 AM

08-17-2006, 01:43 AM
i want these guys to win. then again i root for the bad guys in all my pirated movies

08-17-2006, 06:09 AM
Damned Pirates are going to make the price go up for the people that actually pay.
Yes, and it actually costs them $18 to sell you a small plastic wheel with ~600MB of information on it. That's why any idiot with a PC built in the last 5 years can do the same thing in his house for $0.20.

08-17-2006, 06:23 AM
It's Saturday night and I'm lounging on a living room sofa surrounded by lanky twenty-somethings in shorts and deep tans.

I'll bet it was a dream come true.

08-17-2006, 06:28 AM
Well, whadda ya' expect from some Swedish socialists who live in a country where nobody really owns anything anyway.

08-17-2006, 06:30 AM
Damned Pirates are going to make the price go up for the people that actually pay.

Or they could not pay the actor $30 million. I've always found it amusing that the hollywood types bitch about the greedy corporate world. Kettle, meet pot.

08-17-2006, 06:30 AM
Its comical cause INTERPOL is based out of Sweden.