Online piracy and illegal file-sharing refer to the practice of unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material, such as movies or music or media that is considered illegal such as child pornography. On the one hand, a copyright is provided to a content creator to give them exclusive rights to their content and the ability to determine how it is distributed. On the other hand, whether or not a person has a valid copyright, media deemed illegal simply cannot be made. One of the most common ways to engage in online piracy and illegal file-sharing is through a technology called peer-to-peer file-sharing (P2P). P2P allows you to connect to a network of other users all sharing the downloading work of the file(s) you want. This “group” concept not only allows for extremely quick downloads and also provides anonymity.
One of the most popular websites for P2P sharing of unauthorized content is the Swedish website Pirate Bay.. According to the website, it was started in 2003 as an anti-copyright organization and is free of charge. The sites policy page also says that it does to condone or permit the site being used for illegal purposes such as fraud. Moreover, it warns users not to use the site to “spread malicious, false or illegal material. Despite those warnings, however, Pirate Bay provides users with the ability to share download and access millions of files of unauthorized and illegal content and media.
Simply arriving at the site’s front page provides almost instant access to unauthorized content. It provides a Google-like search function for the content that you wish to access. Typing a search term such as, “Game of Thrones (GOT)” into the query box and clicking search brings you to a page with no less than 25 results of GOT content ranging from the HBO TV series to GOT games for Microsoft Xbox to GOT ebooks. Alternatively, if you are looking for specific content, you can try “Browse Torrent” or “Recent Torrents.” Clicking on either brings you to pages that even a cursory view of, reveals hundreds of links to a wide variety of unauthorized content such as recent and (older) NFL football games, comic books, cartoons, computer software, TV shows and movies. The front page also has dedicated links to “TV shows,” “Music,” and “Top 100”. For those users that don’t speak English, the site also allows users to search for content in different languages including Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi and Serbo-Croatian.
The site administrators clearly are not trying to hide the fact that they wish to facilitate P2P file-sharing. Clearly visible below the search section is a “How do I download?” link. Clicking on the link brings you to page describes in detail how you go about downloading but also includes a link to a preferred P2P file-sharing technology. If users are still confused, they can alternatively access a YouTube video that will explain the process as well.
As mentioned, from its start page, Pirate Bay allows access to unauthorized content. It also allows for access to illegal content such as pornography. Users can access pornography content by either using the general search function or through the dedicated “Porn” link. While pornography by and of itself is not illegal, it is illegal for children and teenagers under the age of 18 to access. Performing a porn search query or clicking on the “Porn” link does not, however, provide an age validation, age restriction or age warning. Accordingly, any child or teenager wishing to access or download the pornographic content can do so quite easily.
As mentioned, one of the ways the online piracy and illegal file-sharing is facilitated is through the ability of uploaders and downloaders to stay anonymous. Pirate Bay facilitates anonymous file-sharing with magnet links. Indeed, according to the instructions provided on the site using magnet links is the preferred/default method of downloading and every link to content on the site is available via magnet links (as illustrated by the magnet graphic next to each link). What magnet links do is connect downloaders directly with where the uploaders have stored the content. In essence, Pirate Bay simply provides the map to getting content rather than the warehouse that stores the content.