Irony of Life - A Poem

5 July 2015

Such is the irony of life; That which is pleasurable, isn't.

Everybody wants to be a star without realising that they already are;

Better and better we want our present, best when it is already;

Problems we call them... Challenges are they ...

What is rising without falling? What is life without learning?

We own the mind yet are its slave; Such is the irony of life.

Convenience we want, commitment it is.

Happiness we want, from things; That thing or that goal, then that, then that, when all we need is this moment; Always had but never saw.

What we see, isn't; Such has always been the irony of life...

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The Tale of the Pirates

12 April 2015

It all began in the summer of 2003. Sweden’s laws against copyright have always been lax and people there divided between those who believe in ‘Free Internet’ and those who don't. Piratbyrån was the heart, mind and soul that represented this ‘Free Internet’ ideology, the main think tank. They participated in debates on Swedish Radio and Swedish Television and also gave several lectures in other European countries but then again simple debates weren’t enough to change the world. So, they planned something, which would shake the media industry at their core. We all know what - The Pirate Bay.

What is TPB? Well, in simple words, it is a file sharing site, but instead of hosting the copyrighted material itself, The Pirate Bay maintains a database of the tracker files needed for users to download the "torrents" -- not the actual copyrighted content. You need a separate piece of software to actually use the torrent file and illegally download the content. So, it’s effectively a few people in an online chat room, a few servers and a tracker, that’s it. Gottfrid Svartholm Warg a.k.a anakata, Fredric Neij a.k.a TiAMO and Peter Sunde, who are referred to as ‘The Pirates’ in this article, laid its foundation. The required funds that initially were provided by Carl Lundström, a Swedish businessman who through his businesses sold services to the site.

Within just a few months the website was thriving as nothing seemed better than people getting all the expensive and useful copyrighted material for free. In a year, the media industries from US and UK realised that they were hit really hard and that the force was ever increasing. ‘The Pirates’ were bombarded with emails that asked them to stop the website, that it was infringement of copyright laws but THAT was exactly what they had anticipated. Their reply was simple enough: “Go and contact the user who is sharing”, with a few abuses. In November 2004, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed a criminal complaint against this website in Sweden. They worked vigorously with Swedish and U.S. government officials in Sweden to shut this ‘illegal’ website down, but their attempts were in vain. How do you shut down a site that itself doesn’t infringe copyright laws? And that too on the charges of infringing copyright laws in a country where laws against this are meek? Till 2006, The Pirate Bay was roaring right in the face of Hollywood and many other media industries.

But soon, water went over their heads. The motion pictures had lost $6.1 billion already. The time had come for them to hit back. In 2006, the US government threatened to impose trade sanctions on the Swedish government. That was the first time Swedish government felt the heat. Judge Tomas Norström immediately issued a warrant to raid the premises of The Pirate Bay. That’s when it happened for the first time - 31st May 2006. Police officers shut down the website and confiscated its servers, as well as all other servers hosted by The Pirate Bay's Internet service provider, PRQ. The company was owned by two operators of The Pirate Bay- Gottfrid and Fredric. Three people – Gottfrid Svartholm, Mikael Viborg, and Fredrik Neij – were held by the police for questioning, but were released later that evening. All servers in the room were seized, including those running the website of Piratbyrån, an independent organisation fighting for file sharing rights, as well as servers unrelated to The Pirate Bay or other file sharing activities. Equipment such as hardware routers, switches, blank CDs, and fax machines were also seized. The Pirate Bay was down. A big shock to The Pirates. Or was it really?

Within 3 days of this seizure Pirate Bay came back online! They had no servers and no equipment! But they had all that they needed - their mind. They leased the servers from a company called NForce in Holland and immediately set the website back up. How was this received in Sweden? - With standing ovations! The people and the Pirates took to the streets and did demonstrations. The Pirate Bay had just overcome a seemingly strong attack.

After this incident the Pirates did something amazing. The Pirate Bay’s blog read - "If the police decide to raid us again there are no servers to take, just a transit router. If they follow the trail to the next country and find the load balancer, there is just a diskless server there. In case they find out where the cloud provider is, all they can get are encrypted disk-images. They have to be quick about it too, if the servers have been out of communication with the load balancer for 8 hours they automatically shut down. When the servers are booted up, access is only granted to those who have the encryption password.”

This made all the future raids a futile attempt at shutting The Pirate Bay down. Now, they weren’t the only ones handling the website. After this, The Pirate Bay was sued by Hollywood in 2008. A very high political pressure was exerted against TPB and finally they were dragged to court.

The trial began on 16th February 2009 where the defendants were the three Pirates and the initial funding provider - Lundström. They were accused of breaking Swedish copyright law. The defendants, however, continued to be confident that the outcome would be in their favour. Now, this is where it got really interesting. Half the charges against the Pirate Bay were dropped on the second day of the trial. Why? - Because all that the Pirates had done was nothing but making an empty page. A portal for sharing. All that happened on the website was done by the users who shared files on it. When asked about how copyrighted material was being shared on it, all Peter said was, “That’s a tricky consequence that I think we have to discuss.” So who was at fault? No one? But as it is famously said, in things as big as this somebody’s got to go to jail.

Shocking as it may be but the three operators of the site and their one investor Carl Lundström were convicted in Stockholm district court on 17th April 2009 and sentenced to one year in jail each and a total of 30 million SEK (3.6 million USD, 2.7 million EUR, 2.4 million GBP) in fines and damages. According to the law in Sweden, it cannot do anything until the defendant can’t appeal anymore. So, the pirates and Lundström appealed in the Svea appeals court. But once again, on 26th November 2010, a Swedish appeals court upheld the verdict, decreasing the original prison terms but increasing the fine to 46 million SEK.

Meanwhile on 13th May 2009, another move by the law worked really well against TPB. On 13th May 2009, several record companies again sued Neij, Svartholm, Sunde and also, The Pirate Bay's main internet service provider Black Internet. This resulted in the ISP disconnecting Pirate Bay. Again TPB was rescued but this time by The Pirate Party. It was a party, started by the Piratbyrån, that did not support the copyright laws in Sweden and recently, it had won only 2 seats in the parliament. The Pirate Party registered its own internet service provider and gave the required bandwidth to TPB. This gave TPB a huge diplomatic security too.

Ultimately, the initial founders had to face their term in jail when on February 2012 supreme court dismissed their appeal. But Pirate Bay was still up and thriving simply because it no longer consisted of servers at a single place. Rather, It was a cloud that was accessible to the ones who managed it whenever they wanted to.

This tale of cat and mouse between the pirates and the government wasn’t over yet. On 9th December 2014, police in Stockholm raided the company's premises again and seized servers and other computers and equipment, which resulted in the website going offline. This time the whole world felt this quake because it had become so famous! It was in the top 80 sites of the world. And the site came back up again! It is not clear how but, presently getting rid of TPB cannot be easy with around 300 mirrors of the site, many proxies, copies and a pirate browser that surpasses the censorship of the website done by the ISP’s for the user.

Maybe someday piracy will be over or it won’t be a crime anymore and nothing is certain. But we know for sure that THAT day is not near.

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