Swedish prosecutors close in on The Pirate Bay

Swedish prosecutors have until Thursday to file charges against The Pirate Bay, one of the most widely used BitTorrent search engines.

Swedish prosecutors have until Thursday to file charges against The Pirate Bay, one of the most widely used search engines for locating music and movies on the Internet.

The deadline was set by a Swedish court last year after The Pirate Bay asked the authorities to return servers seized in a raid, said Peter Sunde, one of The Pirate Bay's operators, on Monday.

Prosecutors may charge up to five people associated with The Pirate Bay with aiding copyright infringement, Sunde said. However, Sunde maintains the Pirate Bay does not violate Swedish law.

"There's nothing that says what we are doing is illegal," Sunde said.

The Pirate Bay is a search engine for torrents, which are small information files that enable content to be downloaded via the BitTorrent protocol.

The content isn't hosted on The Pirate Bay's servers but instead on users' computers. The torrent, when dropped into a BitTorrent software program, will initiate the download of a file from other computers sharing it on the BitTorrent network.

Torrent search engines have come under legal fire before, and the Pirate Bay has since set up servers outside the country to avoid further trouble with Swedish authorities. Sunde said he has received 4,000 pages of material from the prosecutors documenting their investigation.

The Pirate Bay has been targeted by music and movie industry associations, which say it enables piracy of content under copyright and should be shut down.

BitTorrent itself is now a fledgling company that legally uses P-to-P (peer-to-peer) technology. In 2005, it reworked its search engine, removing links to torrents that pointed to copyright content.

The Pirate Bay generates money from advertising on the site, although Sunde said the revenue only covers hosting and hardware costs. The site recently announced it has reached 10 million users with about 1 million torrents.

It's not the only legal case involving The Pirate Bay. Last September, The Pirate Bay filed a criminal complaint against content companies that hired MediaDefender, a company that specializes in disrupting P-to-P networks in hopes of making file sharing too frustrating.

The Pirate Bay alleges that MediaDefender attacked its operations by distributing fake torrent files and other methods.

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