Pirate Bay bigwigs to serve jail time: Guilty as charged or P2P scapegoat?


Anyone who’s a fan of downloading content can’t fail to have heard of Pirate Bay as it’s one of the largest online resources that lists places to get content from. Whether it’s handheld movies taken in a cinema, or the latest tracks from Lily Allen, you can find pretty much anything you want online, and then all you need is a download client and you have free movies and music. Yes, you realize that you’re not paying for this media, so what you’re doing is ILLEGAL-and the people who are providing this to you are considered criminals.

The issue here is who’s to blame– and are the people who offer you access to this content really at fault; plus will punishing them change anything? After all, Pirate Bay never supplied you with the content- they merely indexed the torrents you needed to get it from! So whilst you could argue they behave in a ‘morally wrong’ way, are they really breaking the law?

This was the hotly debated question in court last week as the Swedish men behind Pirate Bay were taken to trial for a severe grilling about willingly, knowingly and happily flaunting pretty much every type of copyright law that exists. The case was the culmination of two years of legal action against Pirate Bay, led by a selection of ‘justifiably outraged’ media and entertainment companies, with IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) spearheading it.

And the verdict, well it doesn’t look good for the Swedes. They’ve been ordered to pay 2.4 million in compensation and have been given a year of jail time each.

But considering that they don’t host or store the files, how much blame can really be apportioned? Pirate Bay is service that provides you with access to other p2p file-sharing services, and exists as an online compendium for people who desire to get something for free, and they’re not the first , or the only service to offer this on the web- just the first who have received such a severe slap on the wrist.

The trials outcome had been described as ‘bizarre’ by the guilty party, who say they’re going to fight the outcome and refuse to pay.

But what’s the answer to this problem? If all music and video became totally free then what would be the incentive in creating it, and how would people get paid? Then again, the current prices for movies are pretty extortionate, so we can understand why people opt not to purchase them and download for free; hence the popularity of Internet ‘pirate’ services.

This case is about much more than illegal filesharing; it’s about making the music companies aware that they have to change their ways if they want to keep turning a profit . Services like Spotify (which has also been under legal scrutiny) have shown people that music can be used in a totally different way than previously thought, so to keep people buying MP3s prices have to be drastically lowered, and it needs to incorporate price drops in the DVD sector as well. Considering so much material is digitized nowadays, there’s no real need for hard copies or CD’s of these items, so the huge prices because of ‘purported’ overheads for manufacturing costs seem even more preposterous,

Hopefully the media companies have now taken note of this case and will start researching or implementing how they can get people to willingly pay for their products- and perhaps even change the way they offer their content. Monetizing filesharing sites is one option, as is given the consumer a wider variety of options when purchasing, and even small things like having PayPal options on every site or allowing people to trial episodes from a show before buying the box set could help.

It’s all going to change this year, so it will be interesting to see what solutions they come up with to keep their business afloat. Will this be the end of Internet file sharing, or could this be the beginning of something new and exciting?

The Pirate Bay crew may be the first casualty of the filesharing sector, but hopefully their suffering and sentence will end up being a positive, as the attention they’ve brought to filesharing on the net could lead to us all getting a better service from every-day companies who realize they need to up their game.

Related: Illegally downloading: A Know How/ (non-)How To guide

Zara Rabinowicz