Following the country’s first ever raid on a BitTorrent site in 2009, Russian authorities have now begun a criminal investigation into the operators of Interfilm.ru. Run by a married couple, the site is now at the center of copyright infringement claim which runs to a staggering $1.25 billion. Reports suggest that the investigation has also traced some of the site’s top users.
Claiming that the site was a major source of pre-release cammed movies with links to piracy groups outside the country, on May 26th 2009 the Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs Investigation Committee under the Ministry of Internal Affairs carried out a raid on the the Russian BitTorrent tracker, Interfilm.ru.
The action followed complaints from anti-piracy group RAPO, a founding member of the MPA which represents the interests of Universal, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox in Russia.
At Interfilm’s Moscow base the police arrested several staff and also the main targets, husband and wife team Ivan and Irina Podorozhnikovymi.
Just over a year later the Interior Ministry Investigation Committee has now filed criminal charges against the pair, known online as ‘Ripper’ and ‘Nadezhda’. The scope of the accusations are quite incredible. Domestic and foreign film companies claim that the tracker caused 38.7 billion rubles in damages – a mind-blowing $1.253 billion.
Although it has not been revealed how this astronomical figure was reached, if convicted the founders – who the authorities say moved house and took technical measures to keep the site up during the investigation – could be facing up to six years in jail under Part 3 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code.
In addition to action against the site’s founders, there is an ongoing investigation into some of the top users of the site. However, in order to prove that regular users committed any crimes, under Russian law it would be necessary to prove they profited from their actions on a large scale.
There are claims that some individuals downloaded fresh movie releases from Interfilm and then uploaded them to their own sites. Police are considering whether to launch criminal investigations in these cases.
Although Interfilm went down after the initial raid, it reappeared at LeaseWeb in The Netherlands. The site remains operational today with a Malaysian host but is perhaps preparing for trouble. In addition to using the Interfilm.ru domain, the site is also in operation from BitHouse.org. Russia’s biggest torrent site, Torrents.ru, recently had to change its name to RUTracker.org after its domain was seized by Russian authorities.