Pirate Bay and Mega: Treating the State as Damage and Routing Around It

One advantage of network culture is that self-organized networks are much smarter than authoritarian hierarchies. Horizontal networks circumvent censorship faster than vertically organized institutions can impose it.

Last year, as the U.S. House and Senate considered (respectively) SOPA and PIPA legislation that would authorize the federal government to shut down websites — entirely by administrative fiat and without judicial due process — for alleged copyright infringement, the Web quickly responded with countermeasures that preemptively rendered such laws ineffectual.

The MAFIAAfire and deSOPA extensions for the open source Firefox browser counter domain name takedowns by taking the user instead to a website’s numeric IP address.

That is, incidentally, how the Web responded in real time to ICANN’s takedown (in collusion with the U.S. national security state) of Wikileaks’s domain name: Thousands of sites all over the Web publicized links to Wikileaks’s numeric IP address, and thousands more mirrored the site at other URLs.

As cypherpunk John Gilmore says, “The Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Most recently, it’s come out that The Pirate Bay has moved to the cloud, thus rendering itself invulnerable to website takedowns. TPB has already taken considerable countermeasures against government raids, backing its site up on several servers and concealing the location of some of them. Still, the move to the cloud not only renders it far less vulnerable, but also saves money:

“The worst case scenario is that The Pirate Bay loses both its transit router and its load balancer. All the important data is backed up externally on VMs that can be re-installed at cloud hosting providers anywhere in the world” (“Pirate Bay Moves to The Cloud, Becomes Raid-Proof,” Torrent Freak, October 17).

Meanwhile Kim Dotcom of MegaUpload — a file-sharing network taken down by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in January in a bungled international operation rapidly falling to pieces in the courts — is rolling out Mega, a new service duplicated on a network of servers in countries all around the world, and therefore far less vulnerable to takedowns by any national government:

“‘We’re creating a system where any host in the world …. can connect their own servers to this network,’ Dotcom says. ‘We can work with anybody, because the hosts themselves cannot see what’s on the servers.’

“One of the more unique wrinkles of the new service may come from Mega’s decision not to deploy so-called de-duplication on its servers, meaning that if a user decides to upload the same copyright-infringing file 100 times, it would result in 100 different files and 100 distinct decryption keys. Removing them would require 100 takedown notices of the type typically sent by rights holders like movie studios and record companies.”

All this illustrates a common theme. As Johann Soderberg has noted, the system of global corporate power in the age of “cognitive capitalism” depends on a totalitarian system of information control comparable to that on which the old USSR relied to uphold the power of the Party apparatus. Soderberg compares the Soviet Union’s restrictions on access to photocopiers and its war on Samizdat “pirates” to the totalitarian digital copyright regime on which an increasing share of profits depends under corporate capitalism.

But this draconian copyright regime is unenforceable. Going back to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the only thing this attempted information lockdown has actually accomplished has been to drive encryption and proxy servers into the mainstream. Eventually, if the upward creep of totalitarianism continues, the whole information economy will disappear into the Darknet, and websites seeking information freedom will relocate to servers in free information havens like Iceland.

The corporate state and its system of information control has already lost. It’s just too stupid to realize it.

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