The world's most notorious search engine for audio and video content on the Web has added a feature that links it with the popular social-networking site Facebook.
The Pirate Bay's site has been upgraded to let those users with Facebook accounts share torrents, which are small information files that enable the download of content via the BitTorrent P-to-P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing network.
Clicking the "Share on Facebook" button brings up a window where a user can share the torrent with their friends. If the Facebook user has a BitTorrent-compatible download client, the program will launch and begin downloading the media.
The Pirate Bay's move will surely aggravate the movie and music industries, which maintain that the Swedish search engine indexes mostly content under copyright which is then illegally distributed.
The Pirate Bay has not heard complaints from either Facebook or entertainment industry trade groups, said Peter Sunde, who helps run the Pirate Bay site. Sunde and three colleagues stood trial in Stockholm last month on a charge of aiding the making of material under copyright available, related to The Pirate Bay's activity. The trial concluded earlier this month and the verdict is due April 17.
In order to let users share more content, Facebook publishes several bits of code that publishers and users can integrate in their own Web sites that allow for content-sharing on Facebook.
The Pirate Bay's use of the button could put pressure on Facebook. But the button could be used to disseminate torrents for content that can be legally shared as well as that with copyright restrictions.
Since a torrent doesn't actually contain any of the media but merely coordinates the download, it remains to be seen how Facebook will deal with those torrents which link to copyright-restricted material.
If many of the torrents coming from The Pirate Bay are suspect, Facebook could simply block the sharing feature for traffic coming from the site, Robertson said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Facebook simply erred on the side of caution and blocked the sharing functionality, at least pending the outcome of the Stockholm trial, to avoid becoming embroiled in the battle over the legality of that site," Robertson said.
Facebook and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), which has prominently complained about The Pirate Bay, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Pirate Bay has recently been adding other features to its site in addition to the Facebook button. Last week, it announced a subscription VPN service called IPREDATOR that is due to launch this week. The service, which will cost €5 per month (US$6.59), is intended to provide more anonymity when browsing the Web.