International Forums and Internet Pirating

Posted By Kaitlyn Bigoni, JILP Member, Mar 7, 2013

On March 3, 2013, a major Internet pirating website, The Pirate Bay, leaked information to the press relating to an intention of the company to relocate its servers to North Korea. The Pirate Bay later admitted that the statements had been made as a prank[1], but this leads to the question; can Internet only companies simply run across jurisdictions to escape prohibitive laws within the own countries?

The Pirate Bay posted a blog post stating that they had been invited by “Korean leaders” to relocate their servers into North Korea, in order to avoid persecution by Norway and Catalonya.[2] The post included statements that the move was based on intentions to seek “virtual asylum” based on the laws of the country, and allowances by Korean leaders to allow such activities within its jurisdiction. However, based on previous access to the pirating website and internet accessibility within North Korea, it is an easy assumption that the website will likely be accessed more in countries that are not permitting such hosting, such as the US or much of Europe, than in North Korea.[3]

Based on international law, each country enforces its own laws relating to trademarks and copyright infringement.[4] This would allow for The Pirate Bay to pay their fines in Sweden, and to escape to another country in which to host the website, while continually supplying pirated material to Swedish citizens. Through the Internet, a user can be located within any number of countries at once, each with different laws relating to Internet activities. This varied jurisdiction complicates the traditional foundation of territoriality. This creates a possibility for a country to theoretically claim jurisdiction over the Internet activities of an individual if they are using a website hosted within the country’s jurisdiction, regardless of where the individual is physically located.[5]

US courts have consistently held that patent and copyrights laws do not apply to conduct within international jurisdiction, unless there is some act of infringement within the United States.[6] Courts have shown that there should not be application of US laws internationally against foreign citizens acting under foreign laws and trademarks.[7]

  Such issues involved in international jurisdiction of Internet pirating of copyrighted material have no easy solution. As with many other aspects of emerging technology, advancements in Internet pirating came much faster than the law relating to such activities. As long as every country involved views jurisdictional elements of Internet browsing within their own jurisdiction, there are no simple means of determining jurisdiction in a way that will prevent companies such as The Pirate Bay from merely running from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to avoid the anti-piracy laws within each. The solution may not even be legal in nature. There could be a joining of countries that agree on the terms of Internet laws, followed by a restriction of access to material by users within those countries to that posted by others within such jurisdiction.[8]

  As we continue to make technological and Internet-based advances, suits for jurisdiction will only face more problems of this type. It is an issue that warrants attention and should be focused on in legislative and international views of the law.

[1] Ian Paul, The Pirate Bay Admits to North Korean Hosting Hoax (2013),

[2] Kim Jung-Bay, Press Release, New Provider for TPB (2013),

[3] Director's Guild of Am., Piracy By the Numbers (2010),

[4] Balough Law Offices, International Jurisdictional Issues Related to the World Wide Web and the Internet,

[5] Id.

[6] Bradley, Extraterritorial Application of U.S. Intellectual Property Law: Principal Paper: Territorial Intellectual Property Rights in an Age of Globalism, 37 Va. J. Int'l L. 505, 543 (1997).

[7] Vanity Fair Mills v. Eaton, 234 F.2d 633 (1956).

[8] Dr. Faye Fangfei Wang, Obstacles and Solutions to Internet Jurisdiction a Comparative Analysis of the EU and US Laws, 3 J. of Int'l Com. L. & Tech. 233-241 (2008).