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Earlier Friday morning a Swedish judge found four men connected with the popular file sharing site The Pirate Bay guilty of contributing to copyright violations.
Already online observers are calling the decision a monumental shift in the battle over copyright protection.
The landmark decision has each of the four men facing a year in jail and collective fines of $3.6-million (U.S.).
The Pirate Bay is a sort of underground Google for downloadable media files, where users can search for and look up music, movies and TV shows to download using a file sharing technology known as BitTorrent. The music and movie industries say that most of the files the Pirate Bay links to infringe on copyrights and have made the site Enemy No. 1 in their fight against piracy.
Pirate Bay has more than 22 million users worldwide on an average day, its tracking system has been accessed more than 4 billion times and some experts believe that the site accounts for as much as two thirds of the world's torrent files.
Before the trial began, I had a chance to speak with Peter Sunde, one of the four Pirate Bay defendents for an upcoming Globe Technology feature project. He tells us in his own words why the Pirate Bay was created, what its millions of users are downloading and what the group thinks about copyright and the music and movie industries.
Why don't you tell me in your own words; what is The Pirate Bay?
Well, that's a hard question. It's hard to define something that is so different to everybody. It's first of all a file-sharing service and it's a website that indexes the file-sharing service. It's a semi-political interest group. It's an art project. It's a bit of everything.
A semi-political group and an art project? How do you see it that way?
The technology is just like a tool for us to use in order to drive a political agenda that we are interested in. All of us. But even though we are not similar. We are just three people in the Pirate Bay, and none of us are similar to each other when it comes to politics, besides the things that we care about such as intellectural property, or the things we don't care about rather. It's a political thing and The Pirate Bay is a tool to make people aware of it and to ... not break it, but ignore it, rather.
When you say ignore it, you mean copyright?
Yeah, intellectual property in all kinds of form. We don't care for patents, any of us, we don't care for trademarks and all of that as well. Copyright is the thing that is most visible.
Why does a site like this need to exist?
We started because there were a lot of sites being shut down without a legal reason. People were threatened to shut down their sites like Supernova, which was a big one and the thing that they all had in common was that it was like 18- or 19-year-old administrators that were running the sites and got scared away by the big lawyers from the big companies.
So we decided that we should open our own site and try to focus on the Scandinavian market and try to make people aware of the good things about copying and not only talk about the bad things.
When did you guys go online for the first time?
2004 or something, end of the summer I guess? So we're a bit more than five years old.
So that was the genesis for it? You guys saw the landscape out there and saw that there were a lot of different sites out there that were being shut down, almost bullied?
We are founded by Piratbyrån, which means the bureau for piracy. Which is a Swedish think tank/political-activist group that was founded because there was a lot of anti-pirates in Sweden talking about the bad things about piracy and one day they released a press release ... the media rewrote as a fact without checking with anyone without being critical to the Beta and it didn't see that it fit our own current way of living I guess.
So we Piratbyrån did a lot of projects to focus on file sharing and on copyright and why we should think about it's existence in the current form and Pirate Bay was one of those projects that Piratbyrån did and it's the most famous project so there are more things that just the Pirate Bay that Piratbyrån started this is the one that grew kinda.
What do people download from you? When are you most busy and what are some of the most popular things that are being downloaded?