MPAA & RIAA vs. BitTorrent Trackers
When BitTorrent technology became popular among millions of users, dozens of BitTorrent trackers were available, allowing those users to search the internet for torrent metafiles. The MPAA and RIAA began to target these BitTorrent trackers, threatening them with cease and desist letters and taking them to court with lawsuits.
This, despite the fact that BitTorrent trackers do not store information about copyrighted material itself, but rather just the metafiles that allow users to access the copyrighted material. Even so, the legal pressure inflicted by the MPAA and RIAA caused many of these tracker sites to shut down.
One of the earliest BitTorrent tracker copyright infringement cases involved Suprnova.org, a popular website used to search for torrents. It was reported that the administrator of the site was forced to shut it down due to the legal pressure from the MPAA and RIAA. Later, it was reported that Slovenian authorities confiscated the Suprnova computer servers, shutting down the site’s operations permanently.
After Suprnova’s demise in one of the first major copyright infringement cases, LokiTorrent became the largest BitTorrent tracker on the internet. It was not long before LokiTorrent’s webmaster began to feel pressure from the MPAA. When a lawsuit was brought up against him, he began to raise donation money from his users to help pay for his legal costs.
He raised a total of about $45,000 through PayPal, an electronic money transfer service. The lawsuit continued, and it was not long before LokiTorrent was shut down permanently and replaced with a message discouraging users from downloading illegally.
One of the most famous copyright infringement cases was against The Pirate Bay, a popular BitTorrent tracker. It was formed by a Swedish anti-copyright group and even has a legal section which displays many of the cease and desist letters it has received over the years.
On May 31, 2006, The Pirate Bay’s servers in Sweden were raided by police over allegations filed by the MPAA for copyright infringement. In less than three days, The Pirate Bay was back online, though the four owners were sentenced to one year in jail each.
HBO vs. BitTorrent
HBO has reportedly sent cease and desist letters to internet service providers warning them that if they did not take action against users of BitTorrent users in their subscriber base, HBO would take legal action. As a result, many internet service providers began to send out letters to users known to have a high traffic of BitTorrent data threatening to cut off internet service if the copyright infringement continues.
As of April, 2007, HBO has not yet filed any legal lawsuits against users of BitTorrent or internet service providers, unlike the MPAA and RIAA. HBO did, however, begin to poison certain torrents of its popular television shows.
This involves placing fake data into BitTorrent metafiles so that the shows which are downloaded by users would not function correctly. This was meant to prevent copyright infringement and to discourage BitTorrent users from using torrents to watch television shows.
Deals Between BitTorrent and MPAA
The MPAA and Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent protocol and founder of BitTorrent Inc., signed a deal to help reduce the number of unauthorized downloads of major motion pictures through BitTorrent. This made it so that BitTorrent.com removed all links to metafiles with unauthorized motion pictures from seven major Hollywood studios. It is not clear yet what kind of an impact this deal had on the MPAA’s efforts to stop motion picture piracy.
Other BitTorrent tracker websites, such as Mininova, began to censor its content to only offer metafiles with freely-licensed content or content with a Creative Commons license. This made it so that only legal content can be accessed from this website, which was previously notoriously among major BitTorrent trackers for its copyrighted content.