2006-06-29

State is harassing pirates?

Quite a bit over 100 servers and other equipment seized by police in the Pirate Bay raid is still in police custody. Internet company PRQ has now demanded the return of four servers and networking equipment currently held by police. According to Fredrik Neij, these computers are strictly related to the PRQ company and have no connection at all to The Pirate Bay.

The four servers contains the PRQ economic system, which is crucial for the company, who is providing over 200 websites with internet connections and other services, including a Chechen news agency. Without this equipment, PRQ will have to rebuild their financial department from ground-up, something that will not only cost a lot of money in new investments, but will also seize effectiveness and mean a lot of workload for the few employees, who are currently working hard to keep their business running as it is, as every one of their customer were raided less than a month ago.

At the same time, the political think-tank/group Piratbyrån is still waiting to get their servers back. For over a week, they have been waiting, ever since the responsible prosecutor, the now more and more infamous Roswall, told them over phone that they had concluded that the Piratbyrån servers had no relations to any crime investigation, and all they needed was his signature - a signature he has still not signed on a paper, more than a week later.

When Swedish daily SvD asks the court in question, they claim they have not managed to get in contact with anyone who has he authority to give them their stuff back.

This is such an obvious lie it is ridiculous. Do the court mean to tell us that Piratbyrån has an easier time getting in contact with Roswall than they do themselves? If so, they need to overlook their routines, maybe plug a phone line into the building and get all those clerks to actually show up at work.

The fact of the matter is that it is getting abundantly clear that this is nothing but authority sanctioned harassments, against the Pirate Bay internet provider and against the piracy advocates.

There has obivously been a political decision to shut down the Pirate Bay. This was ridiculously ineffective, as the Pirate Bay managed to get back on-line with donations from ordinary people after only a few days. They're now back at full capacity, but all this attention and the intensified, not decreased but increased trafic, has made creative businesses hounding them to be able to finance the whole thing. So, by a raid they did not accomplish anything - quite the opposite.

So a new tactic seems to have been deviced. Now the authorities hold on to all equipment they could find. The thought is that it should be very risky to have any relations at all with the Pirate Bay, that so far has never been convicted of anything. If you are their internet service provider you can get all your customers harassed. If you have the same internet provider as the Pirate Bay, you can get harassed. In the long run, if you can't take them out by force, you can harass them, untill they won't get hosted anywhere.

This is very similar to the strategies used in the wars between gangsters and police in the 1930's and 40's. It's standard mob policing, in other words.

The problem is that this strategy will fail, because the Pirate Bay have absolutely no problems what so ever to find willing providers of hardware, software or connection. The Pirate Bay is quite international in its decentralisation and simplicity - if no ISP would rent them bandwidth in Sweden, they simply move their activity elsewhere. And who lose from this? Not the Pirate Bay. They are already moving in a grey zone, legally and - some would say - morally. The ones that will lose from this is the Swedish authorities, that proves that when they can't get rid of something irritating and when the international lobby groups breathes down their necks, they will resort to mafia methods.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the even more obvious harassment being done against Piratbyrån. Piratbyrån is not the same as the Pirate Bay. Piratbyrån is a political think tank and lobby group. They are hardly revolutionaries in anyway. They have an opinion on certain matters of legislation and a view of culture that makes political opponents to Antipiratbyrån, which is the copyright holders' (that is, the movie and computer game development industry - book publishers and record companies have their own groups) interest and lobby group. Antipiratbyrån, however, has made themselves the prime source of information and decision foundation for the authorities - in itself a scandal that casts a shadow over the current fairness of Swedish authorities on these matters - and thus it is important for said authorities to come to their aid.

The problem is that Piratbyrån has proved to be a prominent political opponent. They lack the ear of the authorities, but instead they are often warmly welcomed by others, such as the bigger political parties' parliamental groups, and are frequently figuring in media. And more importantly, they have better arguments than the Antipiratbyrån, they know more on the topic than the authorities, and they have a large support among aware groups on the internet.

Thus they are also harassed, now by having their servers withheld without reason.

It's a shame that Piratbyrån hasn't managed to get the message through to the newspaper that Roswall has openly said that their equipment doesn't have anything to do with the investigation, but that he still keeps it in police storage. That is something that deserves quite some attention in the press, given the outcry about american interests being behind the bust in the first place. What would they say when they no longer could close their eyes to the fact that the authorities are also harassing political opponents for their own reasons?

For Swedish readers, check out Svenska Dagbladet.

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