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Inside The Pirate Bay warship

31 January 08 18:24 GMT
By Dan Simmons
Reporter, BBC Click

Swedish website The Pirate Bay is at the centre of a global legal fight. Click reporter, Dan Simmons travelled to Stockholm in November 2007 to interview two of the people who run The Pirate Bay. Here he gives his impressions of the men who run the controversial site.

There are several things that many of us would consider at best rash and at worse a great mistake.

One of them is to admit to illegal activities while being interviewed on camera. But that's what Peter Sunde did when I met him last November.

With the free abandon of a young teenager whom the law cannot touch he told me how he downloads copyrighted movies and TV shows illegally from torrent sites.

It seemed to me that Peter considered himself almost untouchable, that he was "right", and he did not care who knew what he did, because the "police won't do anything" and because "everybody does it".

But to the global media industry The Pirate Bay's actions are costing jobs and costing billions of dollars in lost revenue. It is why the website has been pursued through the courts and had its base raided by police in 2006, who confiscated servers and temporarily shut the site down.

To many of its users, The Pirate Bay's founders are merely libertine librarians, because they only provide a directory of copyrighted material and do not host the files themselves.

It was a freezing day in Stockholm last November when I met Peter and Fredrick Neijm, also of The Pirate Bay.

Cobbled street

We had asked to do the interview at Fredrick's home because this is where The Pirate Bay's "head techy" (his own term) runs the ship.

It was in an anonymous, cobbled street and the pair were wary of us filming.

We smudged out the house number when it came to broadcast because they didn't want undue attention from the recording or film industry, whom they said had been following them and taking pictures.

In the house and it was immediately clear what was important.

The flat screen panel hooked up to the internet was almost as big as the bed - and both fought for space in the living room.

We were not allowed in the kitchen - it was full of boxes after a quick tidy up before our arrival.

These did not seem the digs of someone who makes lots of money - as has been claimed in the past by some critics who point to the advertising the site takes.

"Lawyers... and replacement servers" eat up most of the spare cash, explained Peter.

We spent the best part of an hour chatting and both men were pretty candid.

Moral view

Peter has dealt with the press before; he was across the arguments about what he does and why he does it. Fredrick gave the impression he did it simply because he could.

When I asked him what his moral view was about listing where people can find copyrighted material to download illegally without paying he said he didn't really think about it.

It has been a long road to legal action against The Pirate Bay - from a police raid in May 2006 to legal charges this week.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are determined to shut down the website.

Some fans and users of The Pirate Bay see themselves, and the website's founders, as free-spirits battling greedy corporate America.

And win or lose this court case The Pirate Bay ship is not for sinking.

I visited the bank that hosts the servers The Pirate Bay use in Stockholm. Peter placed them there in the hope it would be more difficult to for the police to raid.

But the real rub will come from placing servers in other countries. Some of these are within the EU but others are further afield - in case the EU decides to lend support to a Swedish ruling against The Pirate Bay - or other European nations come under pressure to take similar action.

Whatever happens, these self-styled renegades will simply pull up anchor and sail away.

Even Sweden's public prosecutor bringing the action admits as much.

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