The operators of TorrentSpy, once the most popular BitTorrent tracker, have been forced to permanently shutter the site after losing a battle with rights holders.
A Los Angeles court ruled in favour of the Motion Picture Ass. of America in December after TorrentSpy destroyed evidence, claiming it was protecting users' privacy. The judge said it had made a fair trial impossible and imposed a $30,000 fine.
This statement has been posted the TorrentSpy site by its founder Justin Bunnell:
We have decided on our own, not due to any court order or agreement, to bring the Torrentspy.com search engine to an end and thus we permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008.
The legal climate in the USA for copyright, privacy of search requests, and links to torrent files in search results is simply too hostile. We spent the last two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, defending the rights of our users and ourselves.
It was a wild ride,
The TorrentSpy Team
Rights holders might question how TorrentSpy's operators made those "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in the first place.
The December decision marked the knockout blow in a lengthy pummeling of TorrentSpy by the film industry lobby. The site's operators unsuccessfully attempted to appease US courts by applying a filter against copyright files. When that didn't work it began blocking American IP addresses.
The restrictions resulted in a slide in the popularity of TorrentSpy among filesharers, which was funded by advertising. Its crown as the most popular BitTorrent tracker was taken by the Pirate Bay.
The militant Swedish outfit's administrators are currently in court themselves. Peter Sunde, one of the four on trial, reacted to the permanent closure of Torrentspy today, writing: "I was not the biggest TorrentSpy fan out there. It was a personal thing about filters and such that I could not agree to, but I must applaud Justin Bunnell for the way he has been taking care of his users and their privacy.
"Today all big torrent sites are pressured somehow. [The Pirate Bay] has it's [sic] share of pressure, however we expected it and have a legal system that is more just in cases like this. The way that the copyright lobby is going at this is totally wrong and we can't let them win."
Illegal filesharers are now facing a pincer movement from the record, software, and film industries. As well as attacking BitTorrent trackers, a long-running international lobbying campaign to force ISPs to disconnect persistent infringers seems to be gaining ground. Japanese telcos have acquiesced to the scheme and the French government, ISPs, and rights holders have agreed to implement a similar system.
Westminster is, meanwhile, threatening new anti-filesharing laws if UK internet providers don't voluntarily agree sanctions against repeat copyright infringers. ®