Updated: Canadian Police Raid BitTorrent Tracker, Confiscate Server

In somewhat of a surprise move, Canadian police have raided a local torrent site and confiscated its server. With around 10,000 members, Spavar.org was a relatively small site. However, any police action against a Canada-based site is likely to cause wider concern since the country is home to countless torrent sites, from the very small to the very large.

If one would like to gauge the opinions of the world’s leading entertainment companies on Canadian attitudes towards BitTorrent sites, one only needs to look at this year’s International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) submission to the USTR.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Canada remains a magnet for sites whose well-understood raison d’être is to facilitate and enable massive unauthorized downloading of pirated versions of feature films, TV shows, recorded music, entertainment software, and other copyright materials,” the IIPA wrote.

These claims are actually the tip of a very large iceberg. It’s indeed true that some large public torrent sites are at least partly hosted on Canadian soil but mildly under the radar are also dozens of private tracker communities, many of which have happily operated from Canada for many, many years.

The overall impression is that Canada is one of the safest countries in which to put a file-sharing site, but developments yesterday cast a shadow over that notion.

With 10,000 members, Sparvar.org (Sparrows) was a reasonably sized private site. Aimed largely at a Swedish audience, Sparvar had enjoyed Canadian hosting on an IP address belonging to Montreal-based Netelligent Hosting Services, a company that has welcomed many similar sites in the past. Sometime in the past 24 hours, however, Sparvar disappeared from the Internet.


Netelligent servers

Neteligent

Soon after a rumor began circulating that Sparvar had been raided by the police. That version of events has now been confirmed by Scandinavian anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance.

Update: Netelligent confirm action against Sparvar’s server, but deny any raid took place. See update below.

“Police in Canada have seized a server belonging to the illegal file-sharing service sparvar.org. Sparrows was a secret service with some 10 000 registered members. The server was located in Canada, but the activity was directed mainly against Sweden,” the anti-piracy group says.

“Behind the complaint stands Rights Alliance which has long been monitoring and documenting this business. The investigation is continuing with a focus on identifying the perpetrators. The seized server will be analyzed.”

The action against Sparvar shows that Rights Alliance have long memories. More than two years ago following their action against private site Swepiracy, Rights Alliance warned of further action to come, specifically naming Sparvar as a target.

That the group can conduct its work across borders, especially into Canada where it was believed there was a more torrent friendly environment, will come as a surprise to the many other sites hosted there under similar circumstances.

Canada has been paying more attention to IP issues in recent years, enacting the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012 and subsequently introducing a bill designed to strengthen IP enforcement. Following these efforts the United States shifted Canada from the Priority Watch List to the standard Watch List in this year’s Special 301 Report. How much further Canada is prepared to go remains to be seen.

Update: TorrentFreak has been informed by Netelligent president Mohamed Salamé that the police action against Sparvar was carried out in an orderly cooperative fashion with authorities and was not the product of a raid.

“The fact of the matter is we are a datacenter hosting all sorts of customers downstream from us. And as long as there are no violations of our AUP, we take no actions against torrent sites which are still legal in Canada,” Salamé explains.

“We also don’t get ‘raids’ as we have a very professional relationship with all agencies on the federal and provincial level to address the issues. And by professional relationship I mean that we do not just give out information or hardware just because they are law agencies. We make sure their requests are legitimate and that they have subpoenas, court orders, or warrants before complying with any of their demands.”

A separate source familiar with the case informs TorrentFreak that contrary to claims by Rights Alliance, no hardware was seized. It appears that a server was indeed cloned but that was in response to an official order to preserve data following a request by Swedish and Canadian authorities.

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