Sweden Orders the Seizure of The Pirate Bay's Domain Names

The site's comeback tour hits another snag.

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May 19 2015, 1:46pm

Image: Jakov Vilovic/Flickr

After briefly being shut down last year, The Pirate Bay's comeback tour has been fraught with spyware, FBI honeypot conspiracies, hosting challenges, and major downtime. And now, the world's most infamous torrenting site will lose its most famous web addresses.

The Stockholm District Court has ordered that The Pirate Bay's two primary domain names, thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se, be seized by the government. The news was first reported by TorrentFreak and has been confirmed by Rights Alliance, an anti-piracy group in Sweden. I've also embedded a copy of the decision below (in Swedish).

The decision is the result of a nearly two-year-long court battle. Originally, a Swedish prosecutor wanted to hold .SE, the group that handles Sweden's top level domain names, liable for the information hosted by The Pirate Bay. The Swedish judge threw out that claim, but ruled that Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij, who owns the domains, could be held liable.

"We are pleased that the city court ruled in our favor and agreed with our argument that, in our role as the top-level domain administrator, it is not our responsibility to decide on what is or is not unlawful in specific cases" Elisabeth Ekstrand, senior legal counsel at .SE told me in an email.

The judge ruled that domain names are property that can be seized from Neij.

"Pirate Bay has, on a commercial scale, committed huge infringement against rights holders," Rights Alliance wrote in a statement. "Forfeiture is a clear and positive indication by society that this kind of activity is not accepted."

Last year, the Pirate Bay's servers were seized and the site was knocked offline between early December and February, the longest the site has been down in its 10-year history. It eventually managed to make a comeback, but has been a shell of its former self, as it has been surpassed in both utility and popularity by other torrent tracker sites such as Kickass.to.

The seizure of its domains, however, will not be a death blow to the site. The ruling has no bearing on the site's new servers, the whereabouts of which are unknown. The Pirate Bay has regularly changed its domain names in the past, and an administrator for the site told TorrentFreak that it has other domains it can use. The sites are still currently online, and Ekstrand said .SE will turn over the domains in the coming weeks.

".SE will follow the judicial decision once it gains legal force, and over the next few weeks we will determine the actions to be taken in practical terms," Ekstrand said. .SE added that seizing domain names isn't a good way to fight piracy.

"SE believes that the forfeiture of a domain name is an ineffective method for combating online criminal activities," the group said. "It is very easy to transfer one site to another top-level domain."

In April, the Pirate Bay attempted to create its own top-level domain name registry, called .PIRATE, going so far as to file paperwork with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that oversees all domain names. There has been no news on the status of that application since it was originally filed.

In any case, the seizure of the site's two main domain names has to be seen as a setback. The Pirate Bay has proven that it can handle enormous legal pressure, and its creators have spoken of creating an unkillable "hydra" by seeding its data all over the internet. And, considering it's still here, who's going to suggest it hasn't already succeeded?

Stockholms TR B 6463-13 Deldom 2015-05-19