This week, while at work, the senior agent in our team of Nordic Helpdesk Agents sent round an email saying we can see a former colleague (from the part in Amsterdam) in the documentary film, 'The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard'. So I watched it last night and expected to see her in the background or something, but to my shock, she is actually one of the people interviewed as she is a personal friend of one of the Pirate Bay founders. I never suspected...
Anyway, that little fanfare over, I might as well talk about the documentary itself as it was an interesting topic being covered, and one very relevant to my generation it seems. The main focus of the documentary is the ongoing lawsuit between various Hollywood studios and the 3 founders of the Pirate Bay, ongoing because the actual trial took place in 2008, the verdict came in a year later and everything's been stuck in the appeals process ever since. For those who don't know, the Pirate Bay is the world's biggest file-sharing website, which a lot of people use in order to download movies, music and so on for free. The studios don't like this as they state it loses them money. Considering how volatile this issue is, I really liked that the documentary did not impose its views on you: it got to know the 3 founders in question and simply let them speak, so I found it interesting when they were insulting/criticising and disagreeing with each other. So it really put a sour taste in my mouth when there was a dedication to everyone "fighting for a free internet" in the credits; I mean, I knew where the bias lay but I liked the non-in-your-face approach.
So now I will talk about the 3 founders individually, as they just happen to represent the 3 different (vocal) mindsets of the pro-downloading block. I'll start with Fredrik as he's the most irresponsible and yet the most common kind of person you would come across in the pro-downloading block. He agreed to help found the Pirate Bay and did a lot of the setting-up and programming for it, simply because it was an interesting challenge. His main interest was in the technical side of it and seeing if it could be done. So I call him irresponsible simply because it was so clear he went into this project without even realising/imagining the ramifications of this kind of network. I also refer to him as the most common kind of person involved in the downloading of media as he does not have an agenda and simply downloads things out of convenience.
Then there's Gottfrid. Frankly, he just came across as an arrogant prick and I found it interesting that very few other people had a high opinion of him. Gottfrid is very strongly of the camp that says: 'We can do what we want, f*** you Hollywood!' Those people irritate me >_< I could tell he found it ridiculous that Hollywood studios would file copyright claims against him or the website but honestly, why wouldn't they you dick? They see their stuff being distributed for free and you don't regulate the files that anonymous users share; of course they'll come after you because you're a tangible target. Now what's also interesting is that out of the 3, he is the only one that's actually been arrested and sent to jail for the crimes charged in this trial. He was living in Cambodia with his girlfriend, when, after the international arrest warrant was produced by Interpol, Cambodian police arrested him and extradited him back to Sweden. (Fredrik has been living in Laos for a while, I'm questioning why that national police won't do the same.) Out of the 3, he is the one that should not have ended up in jail for 2 reasons: 1) For the reasons I outlined above (he ordered the studios to sodomise themselves in an email) the press/anti-download brigade will have a very easy time of painting him in a negative light, thus convincing everyone on the fence over the issue that download sites should all be banned. 2) Now that they have a supposed guilty party in their hands, all the other parties with copyright-broken grievances can press charges against him/take revenge for their grievances; in fact extra charges have already been placed against him.
And finally we get to Peter, who had been made spokesperson of the website/group. I/We/The audience can immediately see why: he is amicable, a good speaker, respectable (he even held the door open for Monique, the lawyer on the prosecution team against him). He is also a part of the political element of the pro-download block. Coming to politics, I can now point out that during the last decade, Sweden has become USA's most annoying pest: first the Pirate Bay, then Wikileaks. Anyway, Peter states that the problem with downloading isn't the fact people are sharing files and downloading illegally, the problem is that copyright rules are far too restrictive and that current media producers are unwilling to change their production/distribution models in order to adapt to new consumer trends. You can also tell that Peter has gained a lot of respect in the media/intellectual/political circles as we see him talking to the CEO of a record company, pitching a new way of raising money for music artists when doing a guest lecture at a Swiss University and he was invited as a guest speaker when the European Parliament debated current copyright legislation. Oh and he's left wing, yeah no surprise there.
So regarding the actual trial, it becomes very clear that the big media studios' key problem is they have no idea how this world of peer-to-peer and downloads works. They try to assert and prove that the Pirate Bay is set up and run by a bunch of anarchist (or neo-nazi according to some media) criminals who lead and organise a sophisticated network that generates a massive profit, in fact they demand about $10 million in damages. Having the cameras follow these 3 shows how untrue that is. The key things to note are that the organisation is not organised at all, in fact there isn't even a leader, it's a just a group of people running the site in their free time with decisions taken on a whim. The other thing is that, while having advertising banners on their website generates revenue, this is only done so they can cover the running costs. You can tell just by looking at these people that they don't profit from this. So this isn't cut-and-dry theft as they're not really making money off of other people's endeavours, or they are but not in the old-fashioned sense. Overall, while the studios and their lawyers don't properly understand what it is they're trying to suppress, I find it rather silly of the founders to believe they have no responsibility in all this. Well except Peter, it seems, but even he's convinced that nothing done here is morally wrong.
Overall, I recommend everyone watch this film. There are a lot of details I haven't covered, such as Swedish court room etiquette, and everyone is allowed to say their piece (even the prosecution team) so the viewer is given enough room to consider their own thoughts. Best of all, this thing is completely free and can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube, so it shows the filmmakers stand firmly by their principles.