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Pirate Bay Founder Arrested in Cambodia on Charge that Isn’t Copyright Infringement Related

Published onOct 10, 2012
Pirate Bay Founder Arrested in Cambodia on Charge that Isn’t Copyright Infringement Related

27-year-old Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, co-founder of The Pirate Bay along with fellow Swedes Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundstrom, and Peter Sunde, was arrested in Cambodia based on his 2009 conviction for copyright crimes. The Pirate Bay (TPB) is the most popular file-sharing site, with over 30 million users worldwide. The site allows users to download music, games, and movies. For example, the current top 100 downloads list on the site includes hit movies such as Ice Age 4The Hunger GamesThe Avengers, and Men In Black 3.


Since TPB is a P2P file-sharing site, only users themselves actually infringe on copyrighted content by sharing it with each other, while the site merely makes all uploaded content available. Actually, the site technically doesn’t host the content at all, but simply points users in the direction of the content using small files called torrents; in this way, the site simply acts as a search engine. Started in 2003, TPB served the same function as Napster and Limewire, popular file-sharing programs that came before it. Unlike those programs, TPB’s service operates on the BitTorrent protocol, which allows for large files to be shared.

2009 Trial

Warg was tried and convicted in Sweden in 2009 for encouraging copyright infringement. Music and media companies, hoping to send TPB the way of Napster, argued that Warg profited from the advertising revenue while the entertainment industry was forced to lose revenue it would have earned otherwise. Warg’s defense focused on the nature of the site, which operates merely as a search engine. He also noted that he did not profit, but instead used proceeds to maintain the site. Warg and his three co-founders were convicted of contributory copyright infringement at the conclusion of the trial. Each defendant was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay damages of $3.6 million to the plaintiffs.

Warg even started a political party in Sweden called Piratbyran based on a copyright reform platform.

2012 Arrest

On August 30, 2012, Warg was arrested in Cambodia, where he had been living. After failing to serve his one-year prison term following his 2009 conviction, which was upheld on appeal, he became wanted internationally. Warg is reported to be in poor health, sparking some outrage among his supporters that he was pursued. After his arrest, he was deported to Sweden where he was arrested on suspicion of hacking, though he has not been charged. The authorities are still investigating the extent of Warg’s involvement in the theft of sensitive tax records from a government IT contractor in 2010. Thus, despite the initial impression that Warg’s arrest stemmed from his earlier conviction, it now seems that the tax record breach is what prompted the Swedish government to call for his deportation from Cambodia. As the CBC explained, “Cambodia has no extradition treaty with Sweden, so the expulsion was handled as an immigration violation by Cambodia, allowing it to act without a court hearing.”


Will TPB follow the course of Demonoid, another BitTorrent P2P which was based out of Ukraine, taken down by a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on July 27, 2012, and subsequently kept offline by the Ukrainian government? As was the case with the Demonoid shutdown, the action against TPB is heavily rumored to involve the U.S. Government and/or entertainment industry interest groups, like the RIAA and MPAA. Demonoid required users to receive an invitation from a current user before registering. TPB, on the other hand, is public. However, a third party has established a virtual private network that TPB users may use as a privacy safeguard. Whether such measures will suffice to shield downloading sites from legal action will remain an unresolved matter until Demonoid and TPB prove they have a future.

* Lena Mualla is a third-year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. Ms. Mualla was awarded a Fulbright ETA award to teach in Indonesia following undergrad. She is interested in the areas of banking law and IP law.

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