The Swedish government has decided to appeal a court decision that protected the domain names used by torrent-search site The Pirate Bay from being suspended.
In a complex legal decision back in May, the court decided that the company that operates Sweden's .se registry, IIS, was contributing to copyright infringement by continuing to allow the site to use 'thepiratebay.se' and 'piratebay.se.'
It also decided that the domains can be considered property and so can be forfeited. It ordered them handed over to the Swedish government.
But that ruling was challenged, the domains continue to exist, and remain under the control of the Pirate Bay, which redirects 'thepiratebay.se' to a number of other namesake addresses in other registries.
Such is the confusion around the decision that when The Pirate Bay relaunched its website on the .se domain name, it was widely rumored that the site was being used as a honeypot by the FBI to catch downloaders.
The reason the case is complicated is the fact that the registry operator for .se, IIS, refuses to suspend the domains out of a legal principle. It takes the position that the domain names themselves are not infringing any copyright. As its CEO Danny Aerts argued in a blog post earlier this year:
Removing domain names from the address sphere is like removing the sign for a store in the city. It will be harder for customers to locate the store, but the store nevertheless remains in place and customers who manage to get there can still shop there. Another metaphor could be to permanently remove addresses from buildings where a crime has been committed. What would Stockholm's address registry look like if you had removed all of the addresses where a crime had been committed? Probably like Swiss cheese.
The IIS also has a clear policy for the removal of domain names from its registry: it requires a direct order from a law enforcement agency. It was a policy that the court accepted as fair and justified, and it is that decision that presumably will be the focus of the Swedish prosecutor's appeal.
The end result of that legal squabbling was that the Pirate Bay retains control of its .se domains but does not use them to host its website. Instead, it redirect its main domain to 'thepiratebay.vg' or 'thepiratebay.mn.' However, if you search for "The Pirate Bay" on most search engines, the first result will still be the Swedish address.
This messy compromise continues to infuriate Swedish prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad, and IIS' general counsel Elisabeth Ekstrand revealed in a blog post Tuesday that he has decided to go to the court of appeals in an effort to shut the web addresses down once and for all.
Unsurprisingly, IIS is not excited about the news. "All's well that ends well, right?" notes Ekstrand in running through the case. "No, unfortunately not, because the prosecutor appealed to the Court of Appeals, which decided during the summer to take the case to trial (however, no date has been set).
"This also means that the District Court's decision may change, in which direction we don't know ... So again, the saga continues..."
The Pirate Bay's international voyage
As a result of the legal challenges against its main Swedish domain names, The Pirate Bay has registered its name in a wide array of other country top-level domains as backups.
Some of those domains still work, while some have been taken down, providing a fascinating insight into how different rules are applied across the globe when it comes to domain names. (KickAss Torrents has been going through much the same process.)
It is worth noting that The Pirate Bay does not register domains under the 500+ top-level domains that are contracted to domain name overseer ICANN, due to the strong influence that IP interests have over ICANN processes and policies.
Here then are the domains that, to the best of our knowledge, have been registered by the organization:
Registered and blocked
- thepiratebay.gs – South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- thepiratebay.am – Armenia
- thepiratebay.gl – Greenland
Registered and still alive
- thepiratebay.gd – Grenada
- thepiratebay.la – Laos
- thepiratebay.cr – Costa Rica
- thepiratebay.vg – British Virgin Islands
- thepiratebay.mn – Mongolia