Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Wanted in Sweden


Pirate Bay LogoThe week before last, the folks who run The Pirate Bay were on trial for violating copyright laws in Sweden. The Pirate Bay is one of the largest and most popular Bit Torrent sites. They host millions of torrent files that allow people to connect with each other and share music, movies, video games, and other media. That’s right, they don’t actually have any illegal music or movies on their servers, they’re just showing you how to talk to other people who do. But what, you ask, does this trial have to do with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google? Read on to find out.

Just to get questions of morality out of the way really quickly, sharing copyrighted material through Bit Torrent is unquestionably illegal and wrong. While I sympathize with the argument that our copyright laws need to be reformed, I don’t believe that file sharing is a good way to do that. However, The Pirate Bay isn’t sharing those files, it isn’t even linking to them directly, it is just giving people a way to find folks who were doing those things. The four guys who run The Pirate Bay were convicted of violating copyright laws and sentenced to some fines and jail time. The problem is that Google and many other companies are doing the same thing The Pirate Bay does or worse. For instance, head over to The Pirate Google, a website created after the trial to prove just this point. You can use Google as a torrent search engine just like The Pirate Bay. Even worse, try G2P which shows that Google links directly to sites that allow you to illegally download music and movies. Literally the only difference between Google and The Pirate Bay is that the vast majority of Google’s links are to legitimate, legal content while the vast majority (but not all) of The Pirate Bay’s links are to illegal content. However, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Google actually linked to more illegal content than The Pirate Bay does because Google casts a much wider net.

The point is, if the operators of The Pirate Bay are guilty of breaking copyright laws, then so too are Google, Yahoo, MSN, and virtually every other search engine on the web. Surely this can’t have been the intent of the ruling and yet that’s the effect that it has. Of course the RIAA would never go after Google or Yahoo as they have with The Pirate Bay. Not only do they not have the lawyers necessary to take down Google, but it would be a public relations nightmare because the average person on the street has heard of Google, uses them everyday, and probably likes them. The Pirate Bay is, to most people, a sketchy-sounding website they’ve never visited. So there’s also definitely a double-standard at play here. In this case, I think it’s pretty clear that the judge was in error. While it’s fair to say what The Pirate Bay does is immoral and wrong, it certainly can’t be deemed illegal without seriously disrupting the structure of the Web.

Given that the case is being appealed, it’s probably worth pointing out some of the irregularities with the trail. For instance, the judge has ties to a pro-copyright professional organization in Sweden that has taken a stance against The Pirate Bay, but didn’t recuse himself. Furthermore, in Sweden there is a panel of 3 lay people who monitor the judge to help ensure impartiality. The judge had one of these people be removed from their role because they were associated with an anti-copyright group. That makes the fairness of the judgement questionable in addition to other problems it creates.

Apparently an Italian court is also looking to open a case against The Pirate Bay, so it will be interesting to see where this trial goes in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully, though, judges will see the light and make the decision that will help foster growth on the Internet instead of stifling innovation and the free flow of information.

2 Responses to “Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Wanted in Sweden”

  1. Bdubs from the brink Bdubs from the brink Says:

    At first I thought I had already read this article b/c I read some where a very similar argument regarding search engines being defacto torrect search engines. There have been many hacker “mainstream” and below ground books about using Google to steal, hack everything from data to breaking into websites.

    Yet no prosecution exists, and no lawsuits I’ve heard of resulting from data theft caught up in a google spider search…Nor do I think there should be; using the internet should have come with some basic SECURITY teaching to the public but sadly it didn’t.

    While a lot of the internet is peer $#ite’ I can’t believe how often before it that i’d see something on the Tele’ or read about it in the newspaper and think (i should try and find out more about that…sometimes taking weeks of waiting after sending out a letter or trips to the library. Now I do AT least ten searches like that a day! Including to find and download copyrighted file(s)be them music or movie, or program.

    I’m sorry but I’m not handing out copies to my neighbors or family I am watching/listening for myself. I have next to no spendable income (yes I pay for the internet) but I have few luxuries in my life. I know it’s a crap’ excuse / and a poor attempt to rationalize stealing, but I’m not going to movie theatres not b/c I steal the movies…but b/c its too fraking expensive! If there was not internet, no p2p i’d simply go without. The argument that they are LOSING money is, in my case and many others living below the poverty level, complete bullox!

    It’s like so many “WARS” that are waged throughout the world. They are un-win-able! The drug war – drugs are so plentiful today. War on terrorism, they’ve never been more active, the notion that you can stop killers by killing them and innocents is insane; as with both those wars the end result is not more of the thing sought to be stopped it’s the increase of it! Perhaps if the MPAA and the people the RIAA claim to represent had invested a fraction of the money they spend trying to inaccurately (ars-techno) prosecute single people or put on show trials like V The Pirate Bay; they would improve the models and lift the DRM restrictions on content and learn to profit rather than hemorage money.


    Walker Lindley

    Walker Lindley Reply:

    @Bdubs from the brink, I’m not sure I followed all of that, but let me respond to a couple parts. I would still say downloading music and movies like you’re describing is wrong and pretty clearly illegal, but you’re right that the media companies’ claims about losing revenue don’t really add up. Just because someone downloads it doesn’t meant they would’ve bought it if it wasn’t available for free. There’s a lot of evidence, in fact, that shows that people who download music online buy more music in stores.

    And yes, if the media companies spent money making new, better content instead of suing its biggest fans, they would probably be doing better. Instead other companies like Hulu and Apple are figuring out the business model and will end up making more of the profits (although Hulu isn’t really making money right now, but Apple is raking it in).


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