According to staff at a large Russian BitTorrent site, earlier this month their admin was lured to another country under false pretenses, held hostage by a criminal gang and beaten at gunpoint until he handed over the site’s domain name. The plan was thwarted, but not before a ransom was paid by his family.
Attacks on torrent sites are a relatively common occurrence and hardly a week goes by without news of legal action of some kind or another.
One line of attack used by anti-piracy groups against The Pirate Bay, for example, has been to try to have its domain blocked by various ISPs. In Italy, police recently went a step further by seizing the domain of a Pirate Bay proxy.
In Russia recently the whole process of taking a domain was streamlined, when the authorities simply took control of the Torrents.ru domain without any court rulings whatsoever. Although some may label these type of actions against BitTorrent domains as “evil”, if news coming out of Russia today is to be believed, anti-torrent activities have just moved to a whole new level.
According to staff at Russian BitTorrent site LostFilm, on May 3rd their owner was lured to neighboring Ukraine under false pretenses. There he had a 3 day ordeal at the hands of a criminal group who apparently had their eyes on some of his property.
The LostFilm.tv domain is close to breaking into the Top 100 sites in Russia and is one of the country’s most popular sites for foreign movies. It seems the criminal group wanted it pretty badly. Reportedly kidnapped then beaten at gunpoint, the site’s owner was ordered to transfer the domain to a third party.
The next day, May 4th, the domain transfer began and at the same time the kidnappers gained access to the site’s servers. But all did not go smoothly.
Instead of being able to take control of the domain in a single day as hoped, the transfer was delayed by its registrar – the process was going to take 5 to 10 days – so the kidnappers decided to move to plan B.
On May 5th, the gang contacted the admin’s family in order to demand a ransom payment, on the understanding that the admin would go free and later transfer the domain to his kidnappers. Later that day an amount was paid via electronic transfer.
The LostFilm owner was subsequently set free and staff at the site were able to block the kidnappers out of their servers. Both are believed to be safe and well and the case has reportedly been handed over to the prosecutor’s office in St. Petersburg.
There is little doubt that if true, this is a sensational story. However, although the Russian press aren’t questioning it, there are those who believe it could be a PR stunt. LostFilm built up its reputation on the series Lost, and everyone knows what happened to that yesterday.