After the widely criticized Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was tabled in the US House Judiciary Committee, US authorities and the recording industry have launched a crackdown on file sharing sites across the globe. In this battle between the internet and US copyright law, there have been casualties on both sides.
The Recording Industry of America (RIAA), with the FBI on their side, is reaching across international borders to bring down file sharing sites and the internet is beginning to take heavy losses. The RIAA has also set out to bring down one of the world’s most popular BitTorrent file sharing websites, The Pirate Bay, after an opening salvo of arrests that took place last January.
"A blatantly illegal file-sharing site, proud that it's an online bazaar of every conceivable U.S. copyrighted work, found criminally responsible by its own country's legal system and who has been ordered by courts in at least seven European countries to be blocked by ISPs, has publicly acknowledged changing its domain name to escape U.S. laws," wrote RIAA Senior Executive Vice President Mitch Glazier in a blog post, beginning a war of words between these internet privateers and the industry interests trying to force them to harbor.
The Pirate Bay’s “Winston” replied to the RIAA boss in a posting of his own today on torrentfreak.com, likening the RIAA to imperialists attempting to enforce US copyright law around the world.
“Plz stop calling yourself “the creative community”. You’re not a community, you’re a coalition of some of the richest companies in the world. And the only thing you seem to be creative with is your accounting procedures.The recording industry is like a kid screaming for candy. The problem is that the kid has diabetes,” read the post.
The war of words comes after the US government struck out against file sharing websites earlier this year, forcing the internet into a defensive posture in the fight over copyright law.
And the digital war is heating up.
In late January, the FBI shut down one of the largest file sharing sites in the world, Megaupload, arresting several of the company’s employees in New Zealand. The four men were taken into custody and charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and criminal copyright infringement. Following the New Zealand arrests, another Megaupload employee, an Estonian national, was arrested in the Netherlands, bringing the arrest count to five.
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US authorities are seeking to extradite the four New Zealanders to the US pursuant to an FBI indictment.
As the internet mourned the death of the beloved file sharing site, Anonymous struck back, launching Operation Megaupload, which targeted government websites, including justice.gov, bringing the site down for hours.
In addition to attacking government sites, Anonymous also targeted major media outlets, citing their failure to report on major Anonymous operations. The following list of targets was posted on the Anonymous IRC on the night of the operation.
“RIP Megaupload. you shall be avenged Casualties: justice.gov,whitehouse.gov,mpaa.org
GET IN HERE
Official targets of #OpMegaUpload FROM @ANONDAILY: We should attack major news sources failing to report on #opmegaupload Unofficial targets - whitehouse.gov, cia.gov, fbi.gov, bbc.co.uk, cnn.com, abcnews.go.com, foxnews.com”
But the internet’s military wing and the outpouring of support for Megaupload was not enough to stop other file sharing sites from moving into a defensive posture or, in some cases, simply choosing to give up.
Btjunkie.org, a wildly popular BitTorrent file sharing protocol site, voluntarily shut down just weeks after the Megaupload arrests.
In early February, The Pirate Bay switched its top-level domain from “.ORG” to the Swedish based domain “.SE”. While The Pirate Bay is based in Sweden (a country that recently recognized file sharing as an official religion) the .ORG domain is run by the Public Internet Registry, which is based in the US.
In addition to the domain switch, the Pirate Bay dropped actual torrents from being hosted on their site and began using “magnet links,” removing any actual file data from the site.
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But while file sharing websites are doing all they can to stop from being taken down or having their employees arrested, the RIAA faces an uphill battle against an internet that absolutely loathes them.
Long before the days of memes, trolls, Facebook and Anonymous, the RIAA was tried and found guilty by the court of internet opinion in their first efforts to bring down Napster in the late nineties.
Now the internet hivemind is more organized than ever and morale is still high after what the internet deems to be a victory over SOPA. The RIAA faces a nearly insurmountable task. The internet has demonstrated that it is capable of defending itself – through less than savory means if necessary.