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Pirate Bay ditches bid for own nation

Published: 22 Feb 2007 18:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Feb 2007 18:32 GMT+01:00

Having failed in its attempt to buy the 'micronation' of Sealand, the group behind file-sharing website The Pirate Bay has decided to stay put in Sweden.

The Local spoke to Tobias Andersson, one of the Pirate Bay's six Stockholm-based operators, to catch up with the latest developments from the web organisation that is the scourge of Hollywood and the music recording industry.

The Pirate Bay began life in early 2004. Bit torrent file-sharing technology was still in its infancy but growing fast. Two years later, in the summer of 2006, the organisation suffered a temporary setback when Swedish police raided the site's servers.

"We moved to Holland right after the raid," said Andersson.

After a short period in Dutch exile, however, the site was relaunched in Sweden. With its servers now more spread out, The Pirate Bay has become less vulnerable to police operations.

"It became obvious that some raids ain't going to stop us. The site is based in Stockholm and we are here to stay," he said.

The raid is going to court this summer but Andersson is not particularly worried about the consequences.

"It is uncertain what will happen there but one thing is for sure: it is likely to drag on for quite a long time," he said.

Because of The Pirate Bay, Sweden has gained something of a reputation for internet piracy. Earlier this week it emerged that an elite corps of Swedish police has been trained to combat Internet piracy by the FBI and American lobbying organisation the Motion Picture Association.

But Andersson is insistent that Sealand and Plan B are not connected to any desire to flee from the authorities.

"We have 20,000 to 25,000 dollars to spend and we are looking at some alternatives. Really we just want somewhere we can name The Pirate Bay, so we can look on Google Maps and find ourselves there.

"It would be pretty cool and would serve as a memorial of what we have accomplished," he said.

So no plans to pack up the servers and move them to a distant island haven?

"No. Although actually there was an internet connection on Sealand. But it would have been difficult to get the capacity we needed.

"We are happy to stay in Sweden since we are all from here," said Andersson.

The Pirate Bay generated huge international publicity in January when it announced its intentions to bid for Sealand, a British naval platform in the North Sea settled in 1967 by an English major, Paddy Roy Bates. Bates proclaimed Sealand a state, issuing passports and gold and silver Sealand dollars and declaring himself Prince Roy.

"We have given that up now. We e-mailed them initially to see if they were interested and they didn't know who we were.

"Then journalists began calling them and the Sealand people finally came out and said that they were opposed to internet piracy.

"The funny thing is, they ran a pirate radio station in the eighties. We tried to tell them that what we were doing was just a modern version of pirate radio," said Andersson.

But Sealand stopped answering their e-mails and Andersson thinks he knows why.

"One of the Sealand people has written a book that is going to be turned into a Hollywood movie. A deal with us could have jeopardised that arrangement," he said.

Indeed, the current 'regent' of Sealand, 'Prince Michael', told Canada's CBC that The Pirate Bay was involved in "the theft of proprietary rights."

"It doesn't suit us at all," he said of the Swedes' offer.

Prior to their recent attempts at nation-building, The Pirate Bay people spent much of their time responding to letters from large multinationals demanding that they cease and desist.

"In the beginning we got a lot of threats, which we replied to officially on the website.

"We embarrassed and ridiculed these large companies and now they have stopped sending us letters," said Andersson.

But The Pirate Bay itself is no minnow. The Alexa traffic ranking website puts The Pirate Bay just outside the top 300 in the world.

"It is the biggest site in the Nordic countries. We are quite a bit bigger than Aftonbladet newspaper, for example," said Andersson.

Since the site carries advertising, one would think that the six Swedes could turn over a tidy profit. Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet alleged last year that the organisation's advertising revenue far exceeds its operating costs. Not so, says The Pirate Bay.

"We're pretty bad at making money. All these services are run by a company that takes about half of the revenue. I still work full time as an electrician," said Andersson.

Aged between 21 and 29, Andersson says that those who run the site do so "mainly because it's fun".

"And then there is the copyright debate, of course. It is important that these questions are raised," he said.

Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Warner Bros, to name but a few, have made no secret of the fact that they would prefer the questions to be raised elsewhere.

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