Pirate Bay vows to go underground over blocking threat
File-sharing site The Pirate Bay has said that it will adapt rather than die as it faces legal blocks in the UK.
On Monday the High Court ruled that the site facilitates copyright infringement. It will decide in June whether ISPs must block UK customers from accessing the site.
In response, The Pirate Bay said it would use other methods for distributing content which would make it harder for its "enemies" to track.
The content industries, both film and music, have been taking a noticeably tougher line on pirates in recent months as they continue to lose profits because of those determined to get content free.
In November, the creative industries wrote to the UK's major ISPs asking them to block access to The Pirate Bay, following the successful closure of movie distribution site Newzbin 2.
In response, The Pirate Bay said it would be moving to new methods of file distribution from the end of the month.
"The 29th February is the last day we offer torrents in its current form. Then it will be all magnets, which works pretty much the same," it said on its official Facebook page.
"Please understand that it's a necessary move in the saga known as The Pirate Bay. Not having torrents will be a bit cheaper for us but it will also make it hard for our common enemies to stop us."
Independent analyst Mark Mulligan explained the new method. "This means nothing in terms in legality, it is all about evasion and a more secure way of encrypting the sources of the file. Magnets send information about the file rather than its location," he said.
The Pirate Bay does not host illegal files but allows users to search and access copyrighted content including movies, games and TV shows.
Set up in 2003, the site has been subject to many legal actions. In 2009 the Swedish courts found the founders guilty of helping people circumvent copyright controls although the site continued to function.
New distribution technologies will have little effect if the court decides that ISPs must block access to the site, although that in turn will not mean an end to piracy.
"The Pirate Bay may have outlived its piracy lifespan but is a small task to mirror the site or to copy the indices. Even if The Pirate Bay is closed down people will just have to type 'torrent' into Google to find page after page of links," said Mr Mulligan.
He believes that the content industries are likely to turn their attention to search engines in their ongoing battle to cut down on pirated content online. UK rights holders have already called for illegal content to be "forcibly demoted" in web searches.
"If the content industries get Google on board the problem disappears from the mainstream overnight," he said.
The UK government has signalled its intention to look again at how it can stop search engines linking to pirated content in its new Communications Act. The US is also planning similar legislation in its controversial Stop Online Piracy Act.
Blocks, even at search engine level, are unlikely to deter the hardcore users of sites such as The Pirate Bay, which is becoming more politicised.
The site has already spawned political parties in Sweden and the UK and maintains a loyal fanbase who seem more than prepared to go the extra mile in order to carry on getting content for free.
For many, doing so is seen as an act of defiance against what they regard as state-led attempts to censor free content.
Meanwhile the authorities continue to tighten the net on piracy.
Last week the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency shut down music site RnBXclusive while officials in the US recently closed down Megaupload, one of the net's largest file-sharing sites.