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Have you ever put much thought into Internet piracy?

‘Ooh, cool, tons of free stuff!’ – no, I mean, really thought about it.

In almost every Western nation software and music piracy is theft. In the eyes of the law it’s wrong. There’s simply nothing more to it: it’s intellectual property that you’re stealing from the property’s owner. As mere users, just single faces in a crowd of millions, we’re relatively safe. It’s like stealing an apple from a busy market stall: it’s not particularly hard, it’s not very damaging — and at the end of the day, it’s hard to catch a single thief in a crowd of millions.

Organized crime, on the other hand, is serious business. You can think of BitTorrent sites and trackers as organized crime units. In some cases they control the flow of goods from the source all the way to the end user, and sometimes they’re just masters of distribution — either way, it’s these organized units that get most of the heat from governments and groups like the RIAA and MPAA. Conventional wisdom has it that it’s greater ‘value for money’ to shut down the big boys rather than go after run-of-the-mill pirates like you and I (hypothetically speaking, of course). In most Western countries it’s very easy to shut down pirate groups — it’s just a matter of asking the ISP nicely.

Enter bulletproof servers. Pirate havens. Speakeasies of the 21st century — whatever you want to call them, they represent a way for pirate groups to operate safely and outside the law. Sweden, thanks to The Pirate Bay, is the most popular example of a ‘copyright safe haven’. Until the recent ruling against TPB, Sweden was considered very soft on copyright infringement — and the moment the judge’s gavel came down, I can assure you a lot of other illegal groups moved their servers out of the country.

But now that Sweden has capitulated to the international community and ‘gone straight’, guess where The Pirate Bay’s servers now located? In CyberBunker, an old nuclear bunker-cum-datacenter located 120 miles from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. How about Demonoid? They started in Serbia, but now they’re in the Ukraine. These guys can just keep on hopping around until they get bored and shut up shop. It makes you wonder a little about conventional national borders, eh?

Unsurprisingly, China is also a very popular destination for bulletproof servers. You have to assume that eventually every nation in the world will fall into line on the contentious issue of intellectual property, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.

If the television, film and music industries would just make it easy for us — the whole world, not just select countries — to get our hands on reasonably-priced, high-quality media… well, I think we all know what would happen. Piracy would dry up in an instant.

‘Bulletproof’ safe havens are all the rage for Internet pirates originally appeared on Download Squad on Wed, 06 Jan 2010 12:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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