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Three years ago many popular torrent sites added an option to donate via Bitcoin. The Pirate Bay was one of the first to jump on board, a development which caused concern among copyright holders.
The RIAA even informed the U.S. trade representative about this looming threat. The music industry group warned that Bitcoin could make it harder to crack down on pirate sites.
“In April 2013, the site started accepting donations from the public by Bitcoin, a digital currency, which operates using peer-to-peer technology,” the RIAA wrote.
“There are no central authority or banks involved which makes it very difficult to seize or trace Bitcoin funds,” the music industry group added.
Bitcoin does indeed make it harder to seize funds, as law enforcement would need access to the computer where the wallet is kept.
However, Bitcoin also makes it easy to see how much donations are coming in. All transactions are public and traceable which allows anyone to see how much money Pirate Bay is making through donations.
This is exactly what we decided to do. Using the publicly listed Bitcoin wallet address, which is shown on every Pirate Bay page we found that 376 donations, roughly one donation per day, were sent over the past year.
The total amount of Bitcoin received during this period adds up to 8.21 BTC. At the current exchange rate this equals $3,500 in donations over the past twelve months, or $9.34 per day.
Needless to say, Pirate Bay’s operators are not getting rich off user donations.
TPB featuring the Bitcoin address
It appears that the interest in donating has tapered off over the years. Last year Custos Media Technologies reported that the site had received 126.64 Bitcoin in its various wallets between 2013 and 2015, which is significantly more.
TPB Bitcoin earnings from 2013 till 2015
That being said, even the 8.21 it received last year is a fortune when compared to other prominent torrent sites.
ExtraTorrent also lists a Bitcoin address on its site, as well as in the uploads of their ETTV and ETRG release groups. This wallet amassed a total of 4.31 in donations since 2013 which is roughly $1 per day.
Again, that’s quite a treasure trove when we look at the donations that are coming in at KickassTorrents, which is currently the most-visited torrent site.
It’s pretty safe to say that if the RIAA and other copyright holders are concerned about the revenue going to pirate sites and groups, there’s little to worry about in respect of Bitcoin or user donations in general.