In 2003 a group of friends from Sweden decided to found Piratbyrån (the bureau of piracy), a lobbying organization to promote the sharing of information and culture. A few months later the group took a decision that would change the Internet – the launch of a BitTorrent tracker named ‘The Pirate Bay’. Today marks the end of an era with the announcement that Piratbyrån has disbanded.
Piratbyrån had many purposes, but could be described as a pro-piracy lobbying organization. It was founded in response to Antipiratbyrån, the local anti-piracy outfit in Sweden. The goal was to start a debate on copyright issues and how they affect society. Until then, most press in Sweden would simply take everything Antipiratbyrån said for granted.
Internationally, Piratbyrån is mostly known for launching The Pirate Bay in the fall of 2003, just a few months after the group itself was founded. Since there was no file-sharing network in Sweden at the time, Piratbyrån decided to launch the first Scandinavian BitTorrent community, using the then relatively new BitTorrent protocol.
By the end of 2004, a year after the site launched, the tracker was already tracking a million peers and more than 60,000 torrent files. Around the same time the founders also became aware that it wasn’t just Scandinavians showing an interest in their site.
Because of increasing worldwide popularity, The Pirate Bay team completely redesigned the site, which became available in several languages from then on. Around the same time The Pirate Bay became separated from Piratbyrån, with the latter focusing more on other ‘copyfights’ that had to be won.
In the years that followed Piratbyrån engaged in discussions about the role of intellectual property in the digital age, giving a voice to millions of file-sharers who believed that copying is not a crime. Now, nearly 7 years after it was founded, Piratbyrån’s role has been played out and the group has decided to disband.
The discussions about file-sharing that Piratbyrån wanted to have, are already won,” former Pirate Bay spokesperson and Piratbyrån member Peter Sunde told us. “The projects that needed to start have already been finalized. Piratbyrån was a temporary group for a temporary reason.”
The final decision to disband the group came after Ibi Kopimi Botani, a prominent member and co-founder of the group, passed away. Without one of its greatest minds, the group would never be the same again, Piratbyrån’s member felt.
“The discussions about abolishing Piratbyrån have been going on for years already, but this weekend a beloved friend and member died, and we decided it was time to move on for real, since the group could not be the same without him anyhow. It felt like a good time for passing this part of life,” Peter told us, who added that the group was about much more than being the founders of The Pirate Bay.
“Without Piratbyrån there would have been no Pirate Bay of course, but Piratbyrån has accomplished so much more than just that,” he said, a position shared by all of the group’s members. Marcin de Kaminski, who announced the end of Piratbyrån in a blog post, is proud of what they’ve accomplished in all those years.
“The most longlived project which has originated from Piratbyrån is obviously The Pirate Bay, but when it comes to great accomplishments I would like to point out how Piratbyrån were forerunners in one of the most obvious clinches of our time,” Marcin told us.
“By proudly standing up for the ideas of a whole generation of internauts and taking the fights no one else did, Piratbyrån worked as catalyzers when it came to understanding the current evolution of culture, clusters and chaos,” Marcin said. “While other actors have been trying to deliver answers, Piratbyrån has been very focused on targeting problems of the present by searching for the right questions.”
All the right questions have been asked now, and the group believes it has served its purpose. File-sharers are more vocal than ever before, they can stand up for themselves now and continue to challenge the corporations that promote intellectual property abuse.
Just copy what Piratbyrån did and evolve.