Should it be illegal to point?


This article about about a Swedish company, The Pirate Bay, illustrates a way in which the lawyers of P2P sites may strike cord with a judge by reasoning by analogy.

The sticky part, however, is that The Pirate Bay doesn’t host any of those files — like Google, the site is nothing but an index of where those files are located. The actual files are hosted on millions of computers around the world, some of which may only have a small part of the original file, thanks to the magic of the peer-to-peer technology known as BitTorrent. . . . In other words, The Pirate Bay is only pointing Internet users to those files, in the same way that Google and Yahoo and MSN point users to webpages. Is that — or should that be — a crime?

Just as no Judge wants to enter a judgement against libraries, it is not likely that any Judge or jury currently thinks of Google as an company that should be held liable for merely “pointing.”

The article ends with a line which illustrates (the societal norms discussed in class) that the founders of the site do not think what they are doing is wrong:

The founders of the service say their tracker will remain operating even if they are found guilty.


  1. dweinberger

    February 12, 2008 @ 11:01 am


    IANAL, but Napster also was just pointers. Since PiratesBay is pretty clear that its value is in enabling people to infringe — maybe they should have considered a different name — wouldn’t they be subject to the Grokster decision, if they were within our jurisdiction?

    Have I mentioned that IANAL? Am I getting the import of these decisions wrong?

  2. cbaird

    February 26, 2008 @ 12:41 pm


    You are not getting these decisions wrong from my understanding. If PiratesBay were subject to our jurisdiction a fate similar to Napster’s would be the most likely outcome, I believe. We must remind ourselves, however, that this article is concerned with a court system outside of the US and thus governed by different rules laid out in different decisions. This reminder begs the question: Is there such a thing as different jurisdictions in the world of the web? (Is there a web difference?)

    Also, I apologize, I do not know what IANAL means.