A new version of The Pirate Bay has big plans that include a somewhat secretive, yet supposedly innovative way to subsidize your file-sharing habits. Global Gaming Factory, The Pirate Bay's prospective new owner, is still being vague about specific plans, but the Gaming Factory's Chief Executive Officer Hans Pandeya has recruited Wayne Rosso of Grokster fame to help cut deals with record execs and other content producers on behalf of the new Pirate Bay. Rosso said Pandeya wasn't exactly clear at first what Gaming Factory's concept was, but now after "several long conversations" with Pandeya, Rosso calls the new Pirate Bay model ingenious. The former Grokster exec shared his thoughts in a blog post on The Music Void.
The Pirate Bay 2.0: Subsidized Downloads, Crowd-Sourced Cloud
Rosso describes the new Pirate Bay as a "resource-supported" model where royalty fees and other costs related to file sharing are subsidized by tying your PC's computing power into The Pirate Bay's network. "In short, the more computer resources the user contributes to The Pirate Bay, the more his content consumption is subsidized," Rosso wrote. The Pirate Bay will also charge a small mothly fee to its users; however, that fee can be reduced depending on how much of your own computing resources you contribute to The Pirate Bay.
The Pirate Bay would then use all that user-contributed computing power to develop a cloud network to compete directly with cloud services like Akamai and Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), according to a CNET report.
Without more specifics, it's hard to say what business model is really being hatched. But it sounds an awful lot like a plan hatched by the owners of the owners of Kazaa Media Desktop back in 2002. Like the owners of The Pirate Bay, the file-swapping service Kazaa was looking to play nice with Hollywood. In the end things didn't work out as well as Kazaa had hoped.
Rosso says he's been in London this week talking to "content providers and various major executives in the international music scene," such as Universal Music Group and industry trade groups. By Rosso's account, the execs he's talked to are interested in the Pirate Bay's new model, and want to help the Pirate Bay move forward with is plans and retain its substantial user base.
But Will it Work?
The enthusiasm of content producers sounds a little far-fetched to me. I suppose it's possible that recording companies are willing to cut any sort of deal to bring some revenue back to the industry. But what about the rest of the content users go to the Pirate Bay for? I'm not so sure film and television producers are excited about the prospect of handing over downloadable content to The Pirate Bay.
Just look at the protective nature of content on sites like Hulu and TV.com, where only a few episodes of popular television programs are available at any given time. Many video sites also have strict regional restrictions that lock out a good portion of the world from accessing content. But in a digital age where content is widely available -- if you know where to look for it -- users flock to the sites and distribution channels where they can get what they want, and regulations be damned.
Providing the content people want to users all over the world is the inherent problem the Pirate Bay 2.0 will have to deal with. I would suggest that it will be impossible for any file-sharing company to convince content producers to be more liberal with their distribution practices. The Pirate Bay 2.0 will make a valiant effort, but the site will need more than just a revolutionary way to legalize file-sharing -- it needs revolutionary content-licensing agreements recognizing the Internet's tendency toward free-flowing information.