Having recently gone on trial, the founders of the world's largest BitTorrent file sharing site, ThePirateBay.Org, are soon to launch a network service that'll allow file sharers to become even harder for copyright police to detect.

ThePirateBay aims to make the online activities of subscribers as anonymous as possible using Virtual Private Network (VPN) technologies, which provide a secure and encrypted point to point connection that only authorised users can access, making downloaded data and IP addresses difficult to intercept.

The service is expected to launch at the beginning of April and is expected to be priced at €5 (NZ$12.07) per month.

ThePirateBay.Org has been subject to intense scrutiny starting with a raid in May 2007 during which Swedish police confiscated 180 servers (most of which belonged to other customers of ThePirateBay's ISP).

Cutting a long story short, the ThePirateBay was back online after only a few days and the police continued their investigation. The police, and Swedish prosecutor Roswall then pressed charges against five people involved with ThePirateBay, charging them with "facilitating copyright infringement".

Whilst the PirateBay trial has finished and the world awaits a verdict, another copyright storm is brewing in Sweden as regulators introduce the controversial Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) that will allow copyright holders to get personal details of suspected copyright infringers.

Unsurprisingly, ThePirateBay are to brand their VPN service 'IPREDator', and will initially launch it as a beta offering, eventually opening it up to everyone, including users outside Sweden. Interested trialists can sign up in advance to get a place in the beta once it is extended to a wider audience, by visiting the IPREDator website.

The eventual launch of IPREDATOR is also likely to limit the effectiveness of lawmakers to enforce the rewritten Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment (New Technologies) Act.

Copyright holder representatives such as RIANZ (Recording Industry Association of New Zealand) have historically been able to track the IP addresses of copyright infringers as they download copyrighted content.

Whilst VPN services have historically provided some anonymity to downloaders by encrypting downloaded data and masking their IP addresses, most VPN providers have historically kept user logs, which were often eventually surrendered to law enforcement agencies.

According to ThePriateBay, no data and logs of IPREDATOR subscriber activity will be kept, effectively ensuring anonymity, making copyright infringement next to impossible to police.

Although the representatives of copyright holders and law enforcement agencies may eventually develop counter methods for dealing with services such as IPREDATOR, the reality is that snooping into VPNs could see ISPs attracting the ire of legitimate VPN users such as business customers, many of whom use VPNs to provide workers with remote access to office data as well as secure intra-office connectivity.

Further complicating matters, VPN developers are also likely to react to any counter detection measures by making their VPNs even more secure, sparking an arms war that slow moving regulators are unlikely to ever win.

The entry of secure and anonymous VPN services into the copyright fray is likely to see copyright infringement continue unabated, regardless of legislation.

Taking this into account the wider deployment of universally available, affordable and legitimate movie, TV and music download services will be vital if copyright infringers are to be weaned off their piracy habit.

Pat Pilcher works for Telecom but does not represent the views or opinions of the organisation.