At first glance, it seems obvious why Swedish prosecutors are suing the company. After all, by going through The Pirate Bay, people can get access to millions of movies, songs, software programs and other digital files, and download them freely without paying for them. The sticky part, however, is that The Pirate Bay doesn’t host any of those files — like Google, the site is nothing but an index of where those files are located. The actual files are hosted on millions of computers around the world, some of which may only have a small part of the original file, thanks to the magic of BitTorrent.
In other words, The Pirate Bay is only pointing Internet users to those files, in the same way that Google and Yahoo and MSN point users to webpages. Is that — or should that be — a crime? In a similar vein, a music search engine called Seeqpod is being sued by the record label EMI because it makes it easy for people to find public mp3 files on the Web (there are half a dozen other services that do the same thing, including Songza and g2p.org). Should that be illegal? G2P.org actually just does a search through Google. If that’s illegal, does that make Google responsible?
Even if The Pirate Bay is successfully sued, it isn’t likely to affect downloading much. The site may have the largest torrent “tracker” in the world, but it isn’t the only one — there are thousands of them. Even if The Pirate Bay is found guilty and goes out of business, the servers that run the site aren’t actually located in Sweden and will likely continue functioning (The Pirate Bay claims to not even know where the servers are). The founders of the service say their tracker will remain operating even if they are found guilty.