Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Where Have All the Pirates Gone?

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey.

Well, good luck finding anybody to talk to.

Long-time readers will recall that I followed the file-sharing subculture closely back when it was a Rilly Big Thing. So when I saw Talk Like a Pirate Day mentioned, I had to stop and think: Wow, I haven’t thought about that stuff for awhile. So I took a look around. Here are some bullets to duck:

  • Whoever currently owns The Pirate Bay has put two domains up for auction: and (The site is currently at, but as followers of file sharing know, it bounces around a lot.)
  • There may be a method to this madness: Go to and you’ll see a funding pitch for The Torrent Man, an indie film about the file sharing phenomenon and the people behind it. Hey, I’d pay five bucks to see that. Or at least stream it on Prime Video.
  • Two of the file sharing news aggregator sites I used to check are now defunct: and is still out there, and maybe one such site is enough.
  • LAN parties, at which gamers played networked games locally to eliminate latency, are gone. (And that article is itself over five years old.) Several people have told me that purely local LAN parties were at least in part an opportunity to swap files around without worrying about the copyright cops. Modern games built on the progression model are constantly phoning home, so isolating yourself from the greater Internet is no longer possible.
  • Wikipedia has a list of file-sharing utilities, few of which I’ve even heard of. The page includes a list of defunct apps, which contains most of those I had heard of. So non-torrent peer-to-peer is still out there, though I wonder how many people are actually using it.
  • Torrenting is now the dominant file-sharing method. A great deal of torrenting has gone underground to private trackers, making me wonder how many casual users there still are. Government busts have gotten much more aggressive recently, greatly reducing the number of newly released files, especially games and ebooks.
  • I canceled my Usenet service provider account several years ago after not using it much since 2012 or so. I realized I was monitoring one or two groups and not much else. The binaries groups were all spam, most of it unrelated to the groups in which they were posted, and largely malware or porn. Shortly before I canceled my account people had begun posting large encrypted multipart files which were never adequately explained and may have been a clever backup scheme. There’s probably still pirated stuff on Usenet, but bring a big shovel to find it.

There may be more to it than that, of course, but I’m only willing to explore such fringe topics for an hour or so.

Ok. Where did all the pirates go? I think a lot of them simply went legit. You can get spectacular classical music tracks on Amazon for only 99 cents, with no DRM. We rent videos on Prime for a couple of bucks, and there’s plenty of good stuff on Netflix, like STTOS with improved effects. If getting media is cheap and easy, there’s not a lot of reason to go through technical and sometimes hazardous contortions to steal it. I also think that most of what piracy remains is concentrated among far fewer users who hide really well.

I guess if there’s no stopping it entirely, I’m good with that.


  1. Bob Halloran says:

    As you say Jeff, the pricing model for media has made piracy much less worth the effort, and especially in the current climate, big LAN-party gatherings simply aren’t happening for gaming or anything else, especially with high-speed connections available at reasonable prices (upgraded to gig fiber a couple of years back after Google Fiber threatened to come to town and AT&T got scared, symmetric gig speed $80/month).

    Discussion threads on Facebook and the like have similarly done in the Net of a Million Lies (to riff on Vernor Vinge); after running NNTP servers at Bell Labs back in the 80s, I held onto my Usenet account a little longer than you, but the S/N ratio has simply degraded past anything worthwhile, and finding technical information is frankly faster now using the big search engines than scouring comp.sys.* groups.

    Comes down to better bandwidth, sane pricing, more options, killing off the bulk of the file-sharing scene.

  2. Arg matey... says:

    At one point, between Netfix, Hulu (“grey”-shifted in Canada, and not the “live” version which tests your connection/IP for “geographical local”) and Amazon Video (via a Prime subscription), I could get most everything I could ever have time to see… Piracy was a complete waste of time… For 10-years, I didn’t have cable or satellite (I am not a “sportsball” guy, and prefer to get my news in textual formats, and… I certainly did not miss commercials)

    And – I am old now, I have patience to simply wait to actually see if something is worth my time … (good call on never starting “Game of Thrones” from what I hear…)

    Young people these days can get their music via Spotify or even YouTube – heck, most simply search YouTube for shows that popup, are watched and disappear in a massive game of “whack-a-mole”.

    But – over time, licenses have been pulled, because media conglomerates want their own subscriber base… Now, I need to subscribe to Netflix/Amazon, AND… Disney+, AppleTV, CBS All Access, HBO (well – not in Canada)…

    Therefore – a cable/satellite subscription is cheaper… Get one with a PVR and you can even avoid the commercials (mostly)… Which is what we ended-up doing this year.

    Piracy has “gone dark”, with private trackers and direct invites – there are more “hoops” to jump through… VPN, or a seedbox somewhere our of jurisdiction, so it keeps the casual people out of the mix, IMO.

    1. Bob Halloran says:

      We have Netflix, we got a three-year advance deal to Disney+ as theme park passholders, and just got a free year of Apple when my wife updated her iPhone. AT&T is so desperate to make back the money they sunk into the Warner acquisition they’re giving their HBO Max service away with their fiber internet hoping people will pay for it downstream.

      We’re ready to drop our satellite service, which has become more expensive than our old cable bill, and replace it with the “Hulu Plus” streaming bundle for about half the cost. If AT&T and Roku can come to terms about the HBO streaming we’ll keep them, otherwise we’ll go to one of their resellers for somewhat lower rates and no data caps (the Deathstar waived the data cap until now because we’d bundled their satellite & VOIP service with their internet). The legacy providers are finding it harder & harder to make their services cost-effective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *