September 15, 2009, 8:42 PM — The old news kiosk in the center of Weimar, Germany, doesn't sell newspapers any more, but you can find pointers to plenty of other media there.
A group of German activists and artists have archived a database of torrent files from infamous file-sharing site The Pirate Bay, and made them available for download over a local Wi-Fi connection at the kiosk at the busy Sophienstiftsplatz intersection in Weimar.
The torrent files don't contain the media being shared, but allow software clients to coordinate the download of that material via BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing systems.
The kiosk was not in use, and the group has essentially commandeered it, a sort of high-tech squat called the Kiosk of Piracy. The project, called KoCA or Kiosk of Contemporary Art, is part art project and part digital activism that's intended to stimulate deeper musings about the Internet.
"With our newest project, we are joining the work of the dear people and groups which managed to duplicate the contents of The Pirate Bay on other places in the Net," according to the group's blog. "We want to show in a very physical way that the Internet is neither a machine nor controllable in any way -- it is just a system of agreements which work in any circumstances. We don't need the Internet -- the magic can happen anywhere."
The Pirate Bay database is on a Pentium 3 PC, and the kiosk -- which has power -- is equipped with a Wi-Fi router, according to a friend of the group contacted on Tuesday who did not want to be identified.
Passersby with computers who are within 100 meters of the kiosk can access the database of torrent files through the Wi-Fi, but the kiosk is not connected to the Internet, so no actual content can be downloaded, the person said. However, the information contained in those torrent files can be used to find and download content once connected to the Internet elsewhere.
The Web site that users see looks similar to that of The Pirate Bay. Since the kiosk went live on Sept. 7, between 100 to 150 people have used it, the group's friend said.
So far the city of Weimar hasn't stepped in. But anything involving The Pirate Bay inevitably brings trouble.
For years The Pirate Bay was assailed by the content industry, and Swedish authorities charged four of its operators with being accessories to crimes against copyright law. Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström were each sentenced in April to one year in prison and order to pay around 30 million Swedish kronor (US$3.6 million) in damages. An appeals court hearing will start Nov. 13 in Stockholm.