The Pirate Bay claims 'virtual asylum' in North Korea

In a fight to stay online, The Pirate Bay claims North Korea will lend a hand

The Pirate Bay claims that North Korea has offered to provide network connectivity for its controversial search engine, which has faced a years-long battle to stay online.

"We believe that being offered our virtual asylum in Korea is a first step of this country's changing view of access to information," according to a blog post on the Pirate Bay's website signed by "Kim Jung-bay," a pseudonym close to the North Korea leader's name, Kim Jong-un. "It's a country opening up and one thing is sure, they do not care about threats like others do."

The Pirate Bay is a search engine that can be used to find "torrents," or small information files that enable the downloading of content on the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing system. The website has drawn the ire of the entertainment industry for years for hosting torrents that lead to content protected by copyright.

The Swedish Pirate Party was hosting The Pirate Bay for about three years, but it was threatened with legal action by an organization representing the film industry if it did not stop. Last week, The Pirate Bay said it had started funneling its traffic through private networks run by the Norwegian Pirate Party in Norway and the Catalonian Pirate Party in Spain.

The Pirate Bay is already blocked in several countries. Its operators were found guilty in Sweden in 2009 for being accessories to crimes against copyright law, and the entertainment industry continues a long-running campaign to make it difficult for The Pirate Bay to stay online.

A traceroute of The Pirate Bay's traffic on Tuesday showed it appeared to go through Star Joint Venture Co. Ltd., a network provider based in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, according to Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party.

The company is a joint venture between the Korean Post and Telecommunications Corporation, which is run by the government, and Loxley Pacific Co. Ltd., which is based in Thailand. It began work in late 2010 to modernize the country's Internet services, according to the Internet Assigned Numbers Corporation.

At least one observer suggested the traceroute is misleading, and that it would be possible to use a bit of network trickery to make it appear that traffic is going through North Korea.

North Korea tightly controls its citizens' access to the Internet and it seems unlikely the signing of such an agreement would see rising use of The Pirate Bay in the country. Along with the announcement, The Pirate Bay modified its iconic sailing ship logo to bear the colors of North Korea's flag.

"We will do our best to influence the Korean leaders to also let their own population use our service and to make sure that we can help improve the situation in any way we can," The Pirate Bay wrote.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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