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High seas cyber piracy

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Monday January 15, 2007 )

How do you get around copyright laws and a slew of other legal issues relating to the online world? Buy your own country.

It may sound fanciful, but a pirate software and music oriented site is attempting to do just that.

I first read about Sealand a couple of weeks ago in relation to its impending sale. It’s quite a story, but basically, Sealand is a man-made platform located in the North Sea off the coast of England. It was abandoned after the Second World War and then occupied by Paddy Roy Bates on 2 September 1967. Mr. Bates then proclaimed the island his own state as at that point, it was outside British territorial waters. In 1968, the British attempted to “invade” and were turned away by the firing of shots by Sealand’s “owners”.

Anyway, the story evolves from there and needless to say, there’s many different versions and legal wrangles involved, making for fascinating reading. ‘Prince’ Michael of Sealand announced the sale of the country this month.

Enter the software pirates.

The Pirate Bay, run by Swedish anti-copyright organization PiratbyrÃ¥n (‘The Pirate Bureau’) and supposedly the world’s largest bittorrent tracker, has expressed an interest in purchasing Sealand. They aren’t kidding and it seems the Government of Sealand has initiated negotiations. The Pirate Bay are currently calling for donations to go towards the purchase of the country and last I looked they had clocked up about 13k. That certainly isn’t going to get them Sealand, but who knows what other financial backing they may be able to scrape up in that somewhat seedy world.

So it’s all a little amusing. Or is it? Let’s say that they are successful in their purchase and they decide to expand their online activities past a focus on pirate software and music. Or perhaps another cash-strapped country offers an island for sale and slices it off from their legal/political maps so it can become a country in its own right. This has the potential of a hotbed of cyber activity for very malicious ends and there’s plenty of um, questionable characters and organizations that can probably cough up the cash for such a transaction.

Sure, I guess it would be quite easy to “take out” such a small country and remove the threat, but wow, the leadup to that point could be quite messy; legally and in terms of impact on the web; even if it’s somewhat disconnected from the mainstream Internet.

Let’s hope the Sealand ‘owners’ screen potential buyers to prevent their country, if you can call it that, from falling into the wrong hands.

The Pirate Site may actually be biting off more than it can chew if it is successful in the purchase. I believe that in recent years, the British authorities have turned somewhat a blind eye to the activities of Sealand; but something like this scenario occuring could see the British Navy using the platform as target practice. Whether they bother to remove the “residents” first remains to be seen.

Visit the official Sealand site… but I won’t even bother about linking to that other mob.


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