Hollywood’s war on piracy has waged on for years, with big shots making lobbyists try to find ways to legally persecute downloaders, file sharing sites and their creators. From Napster to Megaupload, there have been dozens of cases that have made huge headlines, but none of them have been as big as The Pirate Bay. Created in 2003 by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, the BitTorrent site is one of the largest and most recognized in the world. In the film The Pirate Bay: Away from Keyboard, their lives are put on display, from their 2009 trial, up until August of last year, where Svartholm was arrested in Cambodia, at the request of Swedish Authorities. As interesting as the subject matter is, TPB:AFK is a muddled documentary, that manages to slightly inform and give a bit of insight to this digital phenomena.
From the very beginning, we see how careful and calculated the members are, from the secrecy of picking up hardware, to the hidden location of the actual servers that form The Pirate Bay. Our introductions to each of the men involved in the case are very brief, we get their online handle and their role for the site. A huge portion of the film focuses on their trial and all of the complications that come with it, rather than explore the reasons on how the site came to be and why the creators feel the way they do. This was my biggest issue with the film, in that it only uses the scenario to paint a portion of a picture, rather than give us more of a history to give us the full canvas.
There has been an entire generation of kids that have grown up in this digital age, where both information and goods are exchanged across the internet and The Pirate Bay is a controversial portion of that. It would have been much more exciting to hear them fully speak on the internet as a free market, hear about the raid that got them into the trial or plenty of other elements that could have made the film a lot more intricate. There’s all kinds of things that could have been elaborated on, like their right-wing ties to Carl Lundström and Gottfrid’s ties to Julian Assange. These things or some history on the three responsible would have fleshed out the doc and brought a better understanding to what made this website so relevant.
With it being one of the most famous trackers in the short history of BitTorrent, it would have been nice to see the overall rise and fall of The Pirate Bay, but in TPB:AFK we only get a bit of the fall and a few other instances that only add up to a portion to their infamous story.