The Pirate Bay may have found a new home for its controversial file-sharing activities: North Korea.
A notorious hotbed of illegal content, the service announced Monday it had been invited by North Korea to “fight our battles from their network.” The announcement comes a week after threats from a local anti-piracy group forced The Pirate Bay out of Sweden, according to blog TorrentFreak.
If true, the move raises interesting questions about international copyright jurisdiction. But given the company’s history of hoaxes, many observers say that the latest claim should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“This is truly an ironic situation,” read a press release posted Monday on Pirate Bay’s website. “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.”
In 2007, the Pirate Bay played an April Fool’s Day hoax by announcing its headquarters would move to the North Korean embassy. A trace of the Pirate Bay’s IP address has yielded multiple locations, including one for a joint venture between a Thai and North Korean company, Star Joint Venture, based in North Korea.
But some tech blogs have pointed out the ease with which Pirate Bay could spoof such a location to make it appear as though the company was hosted somewhere it was not.
The Pirate Bay has been a high-profile target for anti-piracy advocates since its founding in 2003. The company allows users to download copyrighted material through a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, and its founder was convicted of illegally downloading protected material in Sweden four years ago.
While international copyright issues are nothing new, North Korea could pose difficult legal challenges if it indeed hosted the Pirate Bay.
With an almost impenetrable government system, “the lack of transparency in their legal system” could make any lawsuit against Pirate Bay difficult, according to Paul Goldstein, a professor of law at Stanford Law School and a co-author of a treatise on international copyright published last year. “Depending on how the system is structured, one could arguably hold them directly liable for infringement of the public performance right.”
That public performance right would apply to users uploading copyrighted material through the Pirate Bay network to share with others. Under that circumstance, the Pirate Bay could arguably be held liable as a contributory infringer.
A notoriously repressive country, North Korea limits entry and access to even the most prominent international officials. In a bizarre twist, former NBA star Dennis Rodman became the most high-profile American to have ever been granted access to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (The two attended a basketball game together).