Popular bit-torrent website The Pirate Bay has moved its servers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea, according to a press release issued by the controversial website.
The Pirate Bay was offline yesterday before first issuing a statement (in Norwegian) late last night claiming that the Norwegian Pirate Party was no longer supplying bandwidth to the website. (Computer piracy and online freedom is such a hot topic in Norway that they have a minor government party devoted to the issue.)
When the Pirate Bay came back online, people online started to determine where the site was based. The traceroute chain for the site reported as 22.214.171.124, which a WhoIs lookup tells you is an Internet Service Provider based in the DPRK. A move that could be safely referred to as "interesting".
According to Falkvinge & Co: "North Korea may have the one government on this planet which takes pride in asking Hollywood and United States interests to take a hike in the most public way imaginable. Many more governments could do well to learn that particular idea, even if they don’t need to pick up the other things that the NK government is up to."
The Pirate Bay has since confirmed the story with a press release that reads: “The Pirate Bay has been hunted in many countries around the world. Not for illegal activities but being persecuted for beliefs of freedom of information... Today we can reveal that we have been invited by the leader of the republic of Korea, to fight our battles from their network.
This is truly an ironic situation. We have been fighting for a free world, and our opponents are mostly huge corporations from the United States of America, a place where freedom and freedom of speech is said to be held high. At the same time, companies from that country is chasing a competitor from other countries, bribing police and lawmakers, threatening political parties and physically hunting people from our crew. And to our help comes a government famous in our part of the world for locking people up for their thoughts and forbidding access to information.”
However, several online blogs are already claiming that the story is a fake. Will's Blog traced the website in a little more depth and claims that the response time is too fast to be coming from North Korea.
Will's Blog says" We see a response time of 46-51ms in my test, this was done from Graz (Austria, EU) – if we consider the european fiber network which links most metropolitan areas rather straight (AMS; LON; FRA; PAR etc.) a 47ms response from Graz (-3/4ms as my traffic is backhauled to Vienna, the capital of Austria) means that the server must be in Europe and probably not very far from the network I use."
The Pirate Bay is known for pulling promotional stunts. Last year it announced it was mulling the concept of launching airborne server drones, and it once even considered buying its own nation (an offshore building called Sealand). Neither of these came to pass, so faking a move to North Korean and claiming it is true via a press release would be very much in the historical spirit of the website.
However, the DPRK is unpredictable at best, often at loggerheads with the west, and often wishes to portray the country (to both outsiders and itself) as a modern forward-thinking nation. Even so, we find it unlikely that The Pirate Bay has actually moved to North Korea, it is more likely faking it and using this as an example to ridicule the legal moves against it.
A move to North Korean by the Pirate Bay would be surprising, to put it mildly, because the DPRK holds one of the worst records on human rights of any country on earth. Wikipedia describes it as "as a totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family".
In Amnesty International's DPRK report for 2012 stated: "North Koreans continued to suffer violations of nearly the entire spectrum of their human rights. Six million North Koreans urgently needed food aid and a UN report found that the country could not feed its people in the immediate future. There were reports of the existence of numerous prison camps where arbitrary detention, forced labour, and torture and other ill-treatment were rife. Executions, including public executions, persisted. Collective punishment was common. Violations of freedom of expression and assembly were widespread."
Many people are surprised that the country has broadband infrastructure and internet access. There is a single ISP in the DPRK called Star Joint Venture Co., according to Wikipedia it is a joint-venture between the North Korean government's Post and Telecommunications Corporation and Thailand-based Loxley Pacific. The country has around 30 websites run by the DPRK government. Access to the Internet is considered to be extremely limited.
Mind you, if it is true (and we think it's unlikely) then the move is likely to put a stop to much of the corporate legal moves against The Pirate Bay. Access to the website is already banned in the UK on major ISP's such as Virgin Broadband and major record labels are continuing to press for a wider ban in the UK. There have been repeated moves against four people alleged to run the site, and in 2009 a Swedish court convicted all four of being accessories to crimes against copyright law.
If The Pirate Bay has set up shop in the DPRK (which again, we stress is almost certainly not the case) then copyright holders would be unlikely to find such legal moves possible, let alone successful, against an operation working from inside North Korea.
Update: According to our sister site PC World, The Pirate Bay has admitted to this story as a hoax. “We hope that yesterday’s little hack proved that we know the internet better than our enemies,” The Pirate Bay said on its Facebook page.
“The Pirate Bay is very good at two things,” Anna Troberg, the leader of Sweden’s Pirate Party wrote in Swedish on her personal site late Monday. “To keep their site up and to lulz the establishment.”