Sharing Is Cari… for Profit

File-sharing is not what it used to be. At least not if you think it used to be this altruistic movement with no profit motives. Today, running torrent trackers is a business, not some ideologic crusade to bring down evil copyright empires. Don’t take it from me, take it from Torrent Freak:

While people have always made money from bootleg videos and music, the very early days of file-sharing mostly embodied the “sharing is caring” ethos. Have a tune, give one away. Have a game, pass it around. However, over the past 15 years – the last 10 in particular – there has been a noticeable shift. Does anyone share or provide platforms altruistically anymore, or is money behind pretty much everything?

Yeah. Except 10-15 years ago it was already big business. If file-sharing was ever altruistic, that stopped long ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a lot of file-sharers really believed they were doing something good (though for most perhaps it was a convenient excuse for not paying for stuff). But for all its peer-distributed hive-mind get-up, there was always a central element and that was always commercial. Maybe because it had to be, it costs a lot of money to run servers. Maybe because they could make a buck. Maybe a bit of both.

Case in point: the world-famous torrent-tracker The Pirate Bay was sold in 2009 for 60 Million Swedish Kronor (or 7,8 Million US-dollars currency conversion as calculated by none other than Torrent Freak itself back when). Yeah, the deal never happened in the end, the buyer turned out to be bankrupt. But if Millions of dollars is not commercial, I don’t know what is. (Wait, 2009? That’s ten years ago. Where’s the party?)

Except The Pirate Bay was commercial long before 2009. When the Swedish police raided its server hall in 2006, the prosecutor collected evidence of three Million US$ ad revenue. A number which, for the record, was challenged by the accused. Again, I’m referring to Torrent Freak as a source. (Thanks for keeping such a good archive, TF!)

Was TPB the exception? All other pirate services altruistic? Hmm, don’t think so: Kim Dotcom had “millions of dollars” seized by the US authorities (along with a list of expensive watches, jetskis and 108-inch TVs worthy of a Bond villain). At least some of that must have come from his MegaUpload-business. While not technically a torrent-tracker, bitlockers like that provide a form of file-sharing.

How about the trailblazer – Napster back in the 1990s? It had an offer of 94 Million US$ in 2002. That was after a US court shut it down, folks. True, that deal also fell through, but if you know somebody who pays 94 Million dollars for a random internet service… give them my number.

File-sharing was always commercial. It was also altruistic on some level. Maybe. Now, this is the point where pirates say “what about Google, it also provides links to illegally shared files”. Correct. It does.