The Pirate Bay, the trailer, the documentary
You might think that it's unbelievable that a website like The Pirate Bay could result in a documentary being made about it but then when you think of The Social Network or the upcoming films about WikiLeaks then you can see why.
This story has more courtroom time and bigger issues at stake than The Social Network and some might argue just as much political weight as WikiLeaks. Hollywood versus the three people behind The Pirate Bay site, at one time the largest file sharing site on the Internet and perhaps it still is.
Let me first attempt a crude and simplistic view of what, if you didn't know, The Pirate Bay is and does. I'm sure you do by now because of the news exposure it has received, but in case you don't here's a quick overview, please bear in mind that this is not intended as an instruction manual and I do not condone piracy.
The Pirate Bay is a site that allows users to search large catalogues of files called Torrents or BitTorrents, and nowadays Magnet Links, these allow Internet users from around the world to find other Internet users and sites who are sharing the file and download it from them.
The key difference with this style of downloading from any other method is that you don't download the whole file from one person or one server, you download it from everyone sharing it and downloading it at the same time, the beauty behind this is the speed of download and the ease of access to the file.
The downside of this is that it happens to be how illegal files are most commonly shared, mainly because of the fact you are not downloading from one single source but from many, many other people and servers at the same time, so while it seems a great and efficient way of allowing people to download content it is heavily tainted as being used for illegal transfers.
Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, and Gottfrid Svartholm are the three people behind the site that raced to the fore of illegal downloading throughout the world, and that soon caught the attention of music and film studios. You can read more about the history of The Pirate Bay and get a more technically accurate insight into what it is and does over at Wikipedia.
The film TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard tells their story of how the three men were taken to court by Hollywood studios seeking a fairly substantial payment settlement for unpaid profits from illegally copied and downloaded copyrighted material as well as the closure of the site itself. It tells us how, despite being found guilty, they manage to keep the site active and continue running.
TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard is written and directed by Simon Klose and carries the following blurb:
It's the day before the trial starts. Fredrik packs a computer into a rusty old Volvo. Along with his Pirate Bay co-founders, he faces $13 million in damage claims to Hollywood in a copyright infringement case. Fredrik is on his way to install a new computer in the secret server hall. This is where the world's largest file sharing site is hidden.
When the hacker prodigy Gottfrid, the internet activist Peter and the network nerd Fredrik are found guilty, they are confronted with the reality of life offline - away from keyboard. But deep down in dark data centres, clandestine computers quietly continue to duplicate files.
The trailer, which is below through the site BetaNews, is an interesting one and does look rather professional.
The film was initially funded through Kickstarter but now the production is gathering donations and funding from pre-release sales of the DVD and streamed copies along with merchandise sales, something that is hugely ironic considering what the site is all about in the first place. Surely the film will be downloaded and immediately released online as a Torrent for people to access and download free of charge, thus defeating the whole idea of the pre-sales for the film?
On a posting the other day on the official film site, Simon Klose says:
"Yes, TPB AFK will be released for free, but if you want to support us who made the film you can now choose to do so.
It's now possible for you to preorder a stream or download of the film for $10 or a DVD for 20$. If you preorder before the premiere we'll throw in the deleted scenes as well (they will be 5$ after the premiere).
Since we are trying to find new ways to use the internet to make a living we are using a great new service called VHX. They know the internet and the needs of filmmakers. They are giving us, the producers of the film, a really sweet deal, and you, the audience a great way to watch the film.
Help us prove that an open internet is a realistic way forward for artists in the digital age!"
It does seem very ironic that the film production is seeking sales considering the sales that have been denied to companies for the games, applications, music, television shows and films that have been made available through The Pirate Bay for people to download for free, but I guess the argument there would be that they aren't as big as these studios and are just trying to make a living.
The counter-argument is clearly that there isn't just a big studio involved and there are plenty of people throughout the credits of a film, song, game or application that need to earn a living too, even if you don't like the profit structure of the business.
Steeped in irony it certainly is and I'm sure if you don't want to pay for it you can find it through The Pirate Bay itself and download it before the pre-sales are finished. What will be interesting to hear is what the documentary presents and if this will be all freedom for the downtrodden people who don't want to pay for films, music, etc and what the rationale will be for it all.
It will certainly be an interesting documentary to see when it is released for free.