The Pirate Bay, one of the most comprehensive and reliable sites for finding torrents of TV shows, movie, software and everything else, operated openly under the premise that they did not host any copyrighted material themselves. They only held the torrent files, which are basically pointers that help users who want the material connect with users who have it.
This peer-to-peer system means that millions of people around the world are guilty of piracy, but not the central host, who never does the dirty deed.
This was the idea behind Napster.
The site is offline as the police have seized the servers to collect evidence. Really, if they'd just emailed me, I could have given them the 6 episodes of Lost that I (may or may not have) downloaded and watched yesterday. (They may or may not have been awesome.) Still, it does smell a bit fishy - the site has been around for years, it's public and open, if they wanted to gather evidence, all they needed was a browser.
The raid on The Pirate Bay heralds another aggressive campaign by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA, aka "the studios") to shut down a technology that threatens their hold on distribution. But unlike Napster, high-speed internet, advances in video compression and the "swarm" transfer technology of torrents means that high-quality TV shows and movies - rather than just music - can be downloaded with ease.
The quality is remarkably good, it's easy and it's fast. Or so I've heard.
Whether the studios are protecting legitimate rights or whether they're just fighting the future is an argument best left for another day (no prizes for guessing which side I'm on), but The Pirate Bay's logo speaks volumes: It's a pirate ship with a tape and cross-bones, a logo appropriated from the British Phonographic Industry's Home Taping is Killing Music campaign of the 80s.
The Pirate Bay will probably be up again in a few days and you can check it out for yourself. Don't go engaging in any intellectual property piracy, though, ye scurvy land-lubber.
[Random aside: I'm usually on the other side of the debate when it comes to pirates, because usually it's a debate on Ninjas vs Pirates. I'm a firm supporter of ninjas. I mean, how can you fault stealthy killing machines? Pirates, on the other hand, have poor personal hygiene and nutrition, and by necessity of living on a ship, exclusively enjoy the company of men. Now, certainly, I have nothing against alternative lifestyles, but a hundred men on a ship, no soap and one cabin boy - that does not make a pretty picture.]
[More serious aside: Man, did you see Guyon Espiner's interview with Cullen last night? Surely, they're both on some pretty dicey ground. Espiner aired stuff that was arguably off-the-record. The crew was still setting up behind Cullen, so he had every reason to believe that the interview had not begun. It was good material, but it was a betrayal of trust, too. I imagine that he'd be getting the "Little Creep" treatment for a while.
But Cullen, too, doing a Tamihere and venting where he really shouldn't, but also for holding a grudge for so bloody long. He's been convinced that the Gallery reporters who reported that there'd be a tax cut in the last Budget have a personal grudge against him for making them look like asses; but of course, he reciprocates this because they made *him* look like an ass. Time to let it go, dude.]