A few days ago the torrent tracker/search engine 'The Pirate Bay
' was shut down again after a court order against their ISP. Peter Sunde alias brokep, who is their spokesperson, commented this with a laconic 'We'll be back shortly'. They were online again the next day.
It's not the first time. In 2006 the police confiscated their servers leading into the famous (#spectrial
) trial earlier this year. The site was down 3 days that time. In the trial brokep, two founders and one of the original ISP:s were found guilty to aiding of copyright infringement. For this they were sentenced to a year in prison and SEK30 million in damages by a district court. This was appealed and the final verdict is expected in maybe 5 years.
So The Pirate Bay guys are crooks with resilience, so what?
Well, there is more to the story.
The Pirate Bay trial - which was followed live on NPR and national television - illustrated a clash of cultures. It was apparent that the court never understood how Pirate Bay got started and was run. The court had no concept of a hacker space. When the defendants tried to explain that no one was formally in charge throughout the process and that no one had been paying them to build the tracker/search engine - the court could not comprehend this. It was not on their maps that these(and about 50 other people) had been building the site - not because they were paid and organized by someone - but for the thrill of being part of something cool, something to tell their friends about, maybe even something world transforming.
The court didn't understand that these guys are superstars in a subculture. That they can go anywhere in the world and be recognized by their peers, and that this - in the hacker culture - in itself is a reward. So an unfortunate ISP who had no business being on trial in the first place ended up being convicted as the mastermind behind the operation.
The trial turned out to be a bad affair for the plaintiffs. The local RIAA and MPAA lawyers came out looking unsympathetic and those on trial were soon portrayed as Robin Hood like characters in the media.
The medias spotlight also fell on 'The Piracy Bureau
' which is a think tank closely connected to The Pirate Bay. They got the chance to explain to a wider audience how the copyright law is flawed and works especially bad in a digital context. How there is money to be made but the business models have to be in par with the technology. And how the people behind torrent trackers like The Pirate Bay are the Gutenbergs
of our time.
And they actually are just that: The Gutenbergs of our time. When you think about it.
A few months later the Swedish Pirate Party
won 7.1% of the vote in the election to the European Union Parliament.
So maybe the Pirate Bay guys knew something all along that was not apparent to the general public until after the trial.
But what does all this have to do with biology?
Biology is the next technology which whole generations will have few or no concepts of.
The same way pirates for about 20 years by now have understood what the advances in information technology bring - the same way the biopunks are on a quest to understand what biotechnology brings.
And it's probably only the biopunks - the pirates/cyberpunks of biology - who can do it. There is a great divide between those who are in the know and those who are not.
The pirates understand what will happen to books in a few years when an e-reader costs $100 and holds 50 book shelves worth. The pirates have understood this for a long time. How much do you think publishing companies and writers understand about this? Now think about how big the divide between those in and those not in the know is in biology.
It's not a question of immorality or lack of respect for the law. It's about understanding what the technology right in front of you does. How it transforms the world. And it's that understanding - which the pirates have for information technology - it's that understanding the biopunks want for biology.