Barbra Streisand and Pirate Bay


Have you heard of the Streisand Effect?  According to Wikipedia (oh no, he’s referring to bloody Wikipedia again, hasn’t this guy ever heard of research?):

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.

It got its name thanks to the the actor Barbra Streisand attempting to suppress online pictures of her house.  If she’d just stfu, the pics would have had a marginal interest.  The photos aren’t that exciting, I can’t see any shots of Streisand engaged in bestiality with dolphins in the swimming pool or anything.  But because she kicked off about it in a big way, the pictures got a lot more interest than they merited, and for a part of 2003 everyone wanted photos of her house on their computers.


Don’t look at Streisand’s house or she’ll get mad!

So, not only did Streisand call a whole lot of attention to the images, she also ended up having this unintentionally-attracting-attention-to-something phenomenon named after her.  The Streisand Effect.  Silly cow, right?

As it goes, the Streisand Effect is a common occurrence.  Because I’m a crap researcher, who thinks fact-finding means looking up stuff on Wikipedia, I haven’t been able to (ie I can’t be bothered to) look for pre-Streisand examples of the Streisand Effect.  In the Wikipedia entry on the Streisand Effect, the “See also” paragraph lists Banned in Boston, Blowback (Intelligence),  Cobra effect and Hydra effect –  but I’m shit at researching, remember? So if you want to know if any of them refer to a pre-Streisand Streisand Effect you’ll have to click on the links yourself.  It’s not hard (though it is too hard for me to do, apparently).

Are you still with me?  Excellent, your endurance powers are very promising.  Well, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) started up a Streisland Effect-like ruckus in 2006 by getting the Swedish government (greased palms, anyone?) to raid the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay (sometimes referred to as TPB by those among us who can’t be bothered to type the whole 3 words “The Pirate Bay” repeatedly).


Logo stolen for unfair use

In the world wide web’s youth, Napster was how files (basically meaning movies and music) were shared.  Napster was an unstructured centralized peer-to-peer system, requiring a central server for indexing and peer discovery; everything went through Napster’s computers.  So it was easy for the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to close down Napster – target the site owner and the host, and BAM! – no more Napster.

But now decentralized, peer-to-peer systems were coming online: Gnutella, released in March, was the first decentralized file sharing network. In the gnutella network, all connecting software was considered equal, and therefore the network had no central point of failure. In July, Freenet was released and became the first anonymity network. In September the eDonkey2000 client and server software was released.  This made the MPAA and the RIAA sad.  Then, in 2002-2003, Bittorrent services spread like venereal-diseased mushrooms:, IsoHunt, TorrentSpy, and our friend TPB.


OMG I stole another logo!

The MPAA and RIAA went after the internet service providers (ISPs) first.  But the ISPs had a defence of sorts: how were they to know what was being offered on third-party sites? The so-called “intellectual property owners” (gah I hate that expression) would have to issue ISPs take-down notices and cease-and-desist orders; the ISPs complied with the orders, but the admins of the actual services would soon pop up again.  Cat and mouse – poor old Tom taking a kicking from the indomitable Jerry.

This is the wonderful thing about bittorrent: any transactions of data take place between the end users.  The so-called “enabling” sites like TBA were not infringing copyright.  They did not even possess any prohibited copyrighted material.  By any sane person’s standards, they weren’t doing anything more than putting like-minded people together.  Is this a crime?

Well, apparently it is a crime in Sweden.  Or, to be more specifically, it became illegal after the MPAA and the RIAA somehow “persuaded” Swedish authorities to make it illegal.  I’d love to know how exactly this “persuasion” went.  All seems very dodgy and corrupt to me.  If anyone can tell me what went on between the industry organizations and the Swedish law-boys, I’d love to know.

Anyway,  the MPAA and RIAA illegally/unethically got the government in Sweden to lean on TBA, whose servers were based in Sweden.  Two raids, and some inelegant convoluted legal argument finally got The Pirate Bay shut down in Sweden for “assisting in copyright infringement” – as it wasn’t TPA itself that was infringing copyright, they just helped sharers get together.  Like prosecuting because some sick rapist bastard met his victims through the dating service.  And the Pirate Bay site was taken down.  That stopped all the illegal file sharing, right?

Uh, actually not.  The Streisand Effect.  If you google for the term “pirate bay” you will find lists of Pirate Bay-like sites.  Proxies all over the world, that enable file sharing to go on, almost as if TPB itself had never been bothered.  The MPAA and RIAA try to get these proxies shut down, but the sites are soon back up again.  And, because these proxies are located all over the world, some jurisdictions take no notice of MPAA/RIAA requests.  Try it.  Google “pirate bay” and see what comes up.  It won’t be the original TBA site, but it will look exactly the same, even down to the picture of the Pirate Bay’s pirate ship.


Sunken treasure? You can’t stop bittorrent!

So file-sharing still goes on.  I did it when I was a kid:  I’d record my friends’ albums onto cassette tape.  Later, I recorded CDs.  And so on, up to today’s wondrous technology that allows one to get exact copies of other folks’ mp3 files and video files.  Does this hurt the industries?  Generally, I’d say No.  The movie industry has got back into showing movies at cinemas/movie theatres some time before they’re available on DVD (or pay-per-view on cable or satellite).  And bands do what they’re supposed to do, and do what they’re best at: live performances.  It doesn’t matter how many “illegal” mp3s I may or nay not possess – I will pay to see my fave acts perform live.  Live music is better than records almost every time.  I can go to the pub, see an unknown band play, and leave thinking That was fucking amazing!  No matter how good file-sharing is, nothing beats the real thing!


The recording industry is killing music!

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

free web stat is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless


On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “” and you get rerouted to – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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