In the 1980s, there was a hugely popular computer game (and later PBS TV series) called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, which helped kids hone their geography skills by chasing Carmen’s villains around the world to find them and ultimately to find Carmen herself. The game starts with the player going to the country where the crime first took place. The operators of the notorious website The Pirate Bay– the poster child for criminal copyright infringement – must have really enjoyed that game, because, they seem intent on emulating it, including most alarmingly their return to the scene of the crime.
For the past four years or so, The Pirate Bay has bounced from one country domain to another in an effort to remain online in the face of numerous criminal prosecutions. At last count, The Pirate Bay had used fourteen different country domain names in that span, including countries like Sint Maarten that would challenge even the best Carmen Sandiego player (see below for a brief history of The Pirate Bay’s journey across these 14 global domains).
It is troubling that The Pirate Bay has been able to evade the law through its version of domain name musical chairs. But what is most disturbing about The Pirate Bay story is the most recent chapter in which The Pirate Bay has returned to its original .org domain – a domain run by the U.S.-based Public Interest Registry (PIR).
It is shocking that a domain name registry in the United States – one that is dedicated to “the public interest” – is allowing a blatantly illegal site to have a home on the .org domain. This is especially disturbing given that the operators of The Pirate Bay have been found guilty of criminal copyright infringement, The Pirate Bay domain names have been seized or suspended around the globe, and even its co-founder, Peter Sunde, has walked away from it. Despite all this, The Pirate Bay seems to have found a sanctuary here in the United States by PIR.
It’s the height of hypocrisy for PIR to present itself on its website as committed to “always do[ing] the right thing” and to state that “abusive use(s) of .org … should not be tolerated” and that .org is “the domain of trust,” when it provides a safe haven for convicted global lawbreakers to engage in their ongoing and harmful criminal infringement activities through The Pirate Bay. When there are multi-jurisdictional court orders against a site, and the site actively flaunts its illegal activities, “the right thing” to do is to take swift and effective action to terminate that site’s domain name – not to help facilitate its ongoing criminal activities. It is our hope that The Pirate Bay’s presence on .org is fleeting and that PIR will abide by their stated standards and principles and do the right thing by ousting The Pirate Bay off .org, just as registries around the globe have done.
While there are many similarities between the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego computer game and The Pirate Bay, there is one big difference: what The Pirate Bay is doing is no game. Creators, big and small, are significantly harmed by the site’s massive criminal copyright infringements. The fact that PIR is presently providing a sanctuary for The Pirate Bay to continue its criminal behavior is unacceptable and should stop immediately.