Is #PirateBayDown the End of File-Sharing Piracy?

Is this the end of file-sharing piracy? We have learned to think about file-sharing as a law of nature, almost. Something that cannot be stopped. The tide of the digital ocean, to which content creators must adjust but not resist. I have many objections to this idea, as Netopia readers will know. Technology is not bigger than man, it is created by us. Built by us. Humans design the features, based on decisions, influenced by values. If we want it different, we can make it different. But my voice has often drowned in the noise of a thousand thousand techno-centrists.

When the first police raid on The Pirate Bay happened in 2006, the notorious file-sharing site was back online the day after. But as of last Tuesday, when Swedish police seized the TPB-hardware from the same server hall as eight years before, the website is still down, almost a week later. Is this the end? One of the founders, Peter Sunde, thinks it should stay down – he feels it lost its soul and became too commercial (which is a little ironic as Sunde and his partners once tried to sell it for €5 million).

The Pirate Bay has been described as a hydra, impossible to kill and only becoming more vicious for each head cut off. For sure, many copycats have arrived, some accused of stealing torrents, scamming users, faking uploads and phishing for TPB-passwords and usernames. The irony is even thicker: infringing on the infringers – is there no honour among… pirates?

Some say the spirit of file-sharing will not go away and welcome a future with multiple torrent hubs, but the network effects that have created the winner-takes-all niche monopolies which dominate the internet as we know it (one Ebay makes more sense than many, one career network etc) apply as well to torrent trackers. Without the central resource gone, it may take a long time replace it. After the raid, other torrent sites (EZTV, Zoink, Torrage, Istole) fell like dominoes, indicating that many services relied on The Pirate Bay as a backbone.

Is this the end? Already the anonymous operators of The Pirate Bay are making excuses and explanations why it may not be so easy to put it back up, hoping for others to keep the spirit of “kopimi”. That’s not the sound of someone determined on coming back. That is the sound of a towel thrown.

Perhaps The Pirate Bay will return, perhaps not. Perhaps another pirate site will come in its place, perhaps there will be confusion and in-fighting for a long time. In any event, the idea that file-sharing is a force of nature just took a big hit.