pirate-bay-bucksPirate Bay Claims “Censorship” to deflect from its role as an anchor for illicit web economy built on piracy for profit.

Apparently Pirate Bay, the notorious torrent website, is adding web search to its repertoire of tools designed to aid those in search of illegal downloads.  According an announcement on piratebrowser.com the new search engine is designed to “circumvent censorship.”  

PirateBrowser is a bundle package of the Tor client (Vidalia)FireFox Portable browser (with foxyproxy addon) and some custom configs that allows you to circumvent censorship that certain countries such as Iran, North Korea, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Ireland impose onto their citizens.

The fact that the folks behind Pirate Bay cling to the notion that their’s is a fight against web censorship is nothing new, disingenuous though it may be.  After all claiming to be a soldier against tyranny is much more appealing than say–“we are fighting to make it easier to steal movies, music, e-books and more.”   Pirate Bay’s heroic veneer has been spotlighted recently thanks to its 10th birthday celebrations and today in The Guardian,  wrote a piece examining the site’s 10 years as a “milestone for internet freedom.”

The site itself can’t be divorced from its cultural context, the hacktivist digital dissidence scene. Pirate Bay represents the punk music of the 21st century: while popular music is reduced to sugary talent-show fodder, online counterculture is noisy, rebellious and disruptive. The cool kids aren’t writing lyrics, they are writing code. This is the heart of Pirate Bay’s tenacity. It’s no longer just about the service it provides, it’s because Pirate Bay has come to symbolise  web liberty for many.

What Pirate Bay “symbolizes” and what it actually is are not necessarily analogous.  I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating once again–online piracy is not about sharing nor is it about “free speech” or “liberty”– it’s about theft for profit.  Despite the spin, online piracy does not advance our dialogue over privacy, government surveillance, or political suppression–all increasingly worthy concerns. What it does do is enrich thieves and undermine the livelihoods of musicians, writers, filmmakers and others who create the content we enjoy.

Web censorship is undoubtedly an issue that needs to be vigorously debated, but thwarting the Pirate Bay’s ability to make money by facilitating theft is not.  The fact is that Pirate Bay and other sites that share its torrents–pirate forums, cyber-lockers and streaming sites are in it to make money (off of advertising).  Without the carrot of the torrent (movies, music, etc) they have nothing to drive traffic to their sites to entice users to click ads.  Pirate Bay is in the BUSINESS of piracy.

It’s not surprising that the web is a vast, at times unruly place, but neither is it unreasonable to expect that criminal activity be discouraged.  If users in Iran and North Korea can utilize the new web browser to bypass government firewalls that’s not a bad thing, but by lumping United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Ireland into the same category, their claimed mission subverted. Sorry, but blocking access to stolen content just isn’t the same thing as political repression.