Pirate Bay's 'Hydra' Sites Shut Down by Registrars

December 29, 2015
By: Christopher Mohr

According to VentureBeat, four website domains of the BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay (TPB) were recently shut down. Although no official reasons for the domain suspensions have been issued, it’s likely that a court decision from a Swedish court has something to do with it.

Back in May, the Stockholm District Court ordered that TPB’s main domains piratebay.se and thepiratebay.se were to be seized by the Swedish government. The ruling was the result of a copyright infringement. TPB provides an index of online digital content that users can access through magnet links. Such links are similar to URLs, but instead of a web address they use a BitTorrent (News - Alert) Info Hash (BTIH) that uniquely identifies a torrent file that enables downloading of a movie, for example. 

In response, TPB created a redirection scheme that used six different country code top level domains (ccTLD): .am, .gd, .gs, .la, .mn, and .vg. These are the ccTLDs for Armenia, Grenada, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, Laos, Mongolia, and the British Virgin Islands respectively. You would access an alternate TPB site with ‘thepiratebay’ followed by one of the six alternate ccTLDs (e.g. ‘thepiratebay.mn’).

Apparently, the thought was that since TPB’s sites using the Swedish .se domain would likely be taken down soon, moving the site to ccTLDs of other countries would effectively take the site outside the reach of the Swedish government. TPB sites featured a hydra with the six alternate ccTLDs symbolic of this move.

Unfortunately for TPB, the analogy of a mythical creature that generates six new heads when one is cut off does not seem to hold up. Just a few days after the Stockholm court decision, the .am and .gs versions of the site were taken down, followed by the remaining four earlier this week.

The last four sites to be taken down had statuses of clientHold and clientTransferProhibited as defined by ICANN. The clientHold status means that the DNS mechanism that translates user-friendly domain names like ‘internic.net’ to computer-friendly IP addresses (e.g. won’t work.

The clientTransferProhibited status keeps the domain from being relocated to another domain. Strangely enough, TPB users could still access the TPB site using the Swedish domains even after the last four alternate domains were shut down. Now under clear jurisdiction of the Swedish government, it’s only a matter of time before TPB’s .se sites are taken down.

The case is an interesting legal study, because TPB’s attempts to evade being taken down are analogous to fugitives escaping arrest. Just as some countries have extradition laws and treaties to capture fugitives outside their jurisdiction, some domain registrars have a system of cooperation with court systems to deal with rogue sites that move to other domains outside of a government’s jurisdiction. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere