The recent ordeal surrounding the now defeated SOPA and PIPA proposals followed by the shuttering of file-sharing giant Megaupload has put online piracy back in the spotlight. Despite studies showing Megaupload’s closure had no impact on online piracy whatsoever, copyright owners continue to pressure authorities in an effort to go after more services similar to Megaupload. The new wave of attention these file-sharing services are attracting is driving some illegal downloaders to seek out new means of sharing copyrighted materials, and decentralized torrent network Tribler emerged as one option. Another interesting solution created by a New York University professor takes things a step further, however, completely removing the Internet from the file-sharing equation and therefore putting pirates out of authorities’ reach.
NYU professor David Darts created the PirateBox more than a year ago and now, thanks to the availability of new cheaper components, users can build a box for as little as $50 according to TorrentFreak. Once assembled, the PirateBox essentially acts as its own file-sharing network, broadcasting wirelessly and allowing any users within range to upload and download files.
“Simply turn the PirateBox on to transform any space into a temporary communication and wireless file sharing network,” Darts wrote on his wiki page. “When users join the PirateBox wireless network and open a web browser, they are automatically redirected to the PirateBox welcome page. Users can then immediately begin chatting and/or uploading or downloading files.”
Darts has published a free DIY guide that allows anyone to gather the equipment needed and build a PirateBox quickly and easily, and all of the software used by the device is free and open source. “The PirateBox consists of a wireless router and light-weight Linux server connected to a USB hard drive,” Darts notes. “The system can run on AC or DC power which allows it to be fully mobile. You can take it to the park, operate it a cafe, in a subway, at work, etc.”
The solution is designed with both privacy and security in mind. While PirateBox users must be in close quarters in order to access the device, it doesn’t require any logins nor does it log any user data. Users on the local network are kept completely anonymous and because there is no Internet connection, there is no way for authorities working with copyright owners to track the service.