The Pirate Bay may have just been raided and taken down, possibly for good, but fake sites that only exist to rake in ad dollars are already popping up across the web.
The Pirate Bay was one of the world's oldest and most widely-used sites for downloading torrent files of music, movies, and books, until yesterday when Swedish authorities seized several servers, taking it offline. The Pirate Bay has survived several raids in the past, leading some to believe that it would return again. Those people are right—sort of.
Fake sites offering cached search results from the original Pirate Bay, or nothing at all except for ads and pop-ups, have started popping up and fooling users. Domains like thepiratebay.ee seem legitimate at first (note: do not go to these sites), but searching for a torrent of any kind reveals only scams and ads.
If the pop-ups warning you that your machine has been infected by a virus don't immediately tip you off to these sites' fraudulent nature, then the request that you actually give them money using PayPal or a credit card to join a torrent tracker that has always been public certainly will.
Ads aren't the only way people are attempting to cash in on The Pirate Bay's legacy. Someone is already selling shirts, mugs, posters, and hats that say, "Keep calm and navigate to thepiratebay.cr," the URL for what used to be a legitimate mirror—a duplicate site hosted elsewhere—of the original site. It's currently devoid of any content except for ads.
However, with zero user votes on the site that sells these trinkets, it doesn't look like the enterprise is proving especially lucrative so far.
Ironically, these fake ad-ridden sites and tasteless cash-ins exemplify what Peter Sunde, one of the original founders of the real Pirate Bay, believes the real site had become before it was taken down—and why he's glad that it's dead.
In a blog post published yesterday, Sunde charged the defunct torrent site with being a "soulless" and crass cash cow at the end of its life.
"The site was ugly, full of bugs, old code and old design. It never changed except for one thing—the ads," Sunde wrote. "More and more ads [were] filling the site, and somehow when it felt unimaginable to make these ads more distasteful they somehow ended up even worse."
Some users are still pining for their old port of call when it came to downloading torrents, however, and are finding ingenious ways to do just that. One method, posted on Reddit, involves using Google as a stand-in for the Pirate Bay's search function, and the search engine's cache feature as a way to access the pages.
By viewing the cached pages in a text-only format, users can copy the magnet links—links that contain a unique code that allows users to immediately seek out peers to download from—and start pirating.
For internet pirates eager for the return of the original Pirate Bay, the best advice is probably to relax and be patient. According to a blog post on Torrent Freak, if the site ever does come back, it will most likely be on one of its known proxies.
Proxy homepages are sites hosted around the world that allow users to access the files on the real Pirate Bay's servers. Proxy sites have allowed users residing in countries where The Pirate Bay is blocked to download its torrents for years. A list of known proxies can be found on ProxyBay.
Sunde, however, hopes that the Pirate Bay's death will encourage not yet another iteration of the site, but a new wave of torrent sites that better cater to the needs of their community and skip the scams and tasteless ads.
"But from the immense void that will now fill up the fiber cables all over the world, I'm pretty sure the next thing will pan out," he wrote. "And hopefully it has no ads for porn or viagra. There's already other services for that."
It remains to be seen whether The Pirate Bay will return from the dead, alive as Lazarus, but for now, the fake sites that are cashing in on its legacy are merely soulless zombies.