Fans of The Pirate Bay had reason to be concerned when two of the BitTorrent site’s most visible employees failed to show up for a scheduled appearance at the Hack in the Box security conference (HITB) in Malaysia. Fredrik Neij, a co-founder of The Pirate Bay, and former spokesman Peter Sunder were detained in Bangkok en route to the hacker conference, according to Torrent Freak.
It is not clear who stopped the pair in Thailand.
The two were scheduled to give a speech called “Data is Political” at the conference and, while they ended up missing the engagement, they told Torrent Freak that a stomach ailment was to blame.
“I just couldn’t show since I’m home puking my ass off after picking up a bad stomach virus a few days ago,” Sunder said, although he also reportedly mentioned that the travel was an issue.
Although the actual reason for the pair’s missed appointment remains murky it doesn’t come at a good time for The Pirate Bay or for the file-sharing industry in general. It is illegal for Americans to download copyrighted material from the Internet, and The Pirate Bay has been a favorite target for the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.
This story comes after the news that another Pirate Bay co-founder, Gottrid Svartholm, had been arrested in Cambodia and deported home to Sweden. The Guardian reported Svartholm is being held in Sweden under conditions that human rights group might consider dubious.
“To prevent Gottfrid from interfering with the investigation the prosecutor believes it's justified to detain him for more than a month without being charged. The Pirate Bay co-founder is not allowed to have visitors and is being refused access to newspapers and television,” the Guardian reported. “The prosecutor hasn't ruled out a request for another extension of Gottfrid's detainment in two weeks, if the investigation is still ongoing.”
Earlier this month Torrent Freak reported The Pirate Bay was offline because of a power failure, although the reaction on social media was decidedly more alarmist. Even though the site was offline for just 24 hours (a rough estimate as many areas saw longer and shorter outages), Reddit, Facebook and Twitter were full of people asking if The Pirate Bay had finally seen its last day. While most replies were optimistic there was a faction of BitTorrenters that recommended other sites that host copyrighted material.
Pirate Bay fans are sensitive not only because of the length of power outages or the legal uncertainty around the site’s founders, but also because of what happened to Demonoid. The popular, semi-private BitTorrent tracker was shut down by the Ukrainian government at the behest of the U.S. government early in the summer of this year. It’s a fate many hope the Pirate Bay will avoid.