Extradition For Pirates? Seized Domain Admins Call It Quits

As US authorities continue with Operation in Our Sites, putting pressure on file-sharing services and seizing their domains, for some it is all to easy to champion a heroic fight back against these "forces of evil". But for the admins of one site targeted by ICE and DHS, the thought of being extradited to the US is a step too far. What started off as fun was turning into something else. Today they announce that "enough is enough."

Spoiled by the militant style of The Pirate Bay founders, who raised their middle fingers at some of the most powerful corporate and governmental organizations in the world, many in the file-sharing community feel that utter defiance is the only approach to dealing with copyright-related adversity.

With such a high benchmark set for sticking-it-to-the-man, on countless occasions over the last decade the community has sighed in collective resignation and disappointment when site admins or product developers have “caved in” to the demands of the entertainment industries.

But there are real people behind these stories of admins fighting for their lives, and while it’s easy to move on to tomorrow’s news with barely a second thought for their predicament, they are the ones that have to live with the consequences of their actions.

In May, US authorities embarked on phase 4 of Operation in Our Sites, seizing the domains of several more sites including that of Re1ease.net, a portal that offered links to movie and TV shows. Although the site quickly returned with a new domain, once the dust has settled the seriousness of their situation weighed heavily on the site’s admins.

“At the time I was happy the domain was all that was taken. If we had of lost the server I imagine we would have just quit there and then,” site admin PiraCee told TorrentFreak.

RE1_VOD, another Re1ease admin, explained that it came as a shock for the site to be targeted over other much larger sites of the same kind, but they remained defiant.

“We registered several domains being stubbon not to be taken offline,” he explained. “The initial plan was to re-code Re1ease to be API-based and be a distributed website.”

But it seems the mood soon changed.

While RE1_VOD recalls the excitement of getting up during the night to be the first to add content and beat competing sites, he told us that once the US government got involved it was an altogether different game.

Already the site had suffered problems with advertisers who would delay payments for months only to announce they could not deal with the site, presumably on copyright grounds. DMCA takedown notices began to cause problems too.

“We would reply to DCMA requests but just one email from copyright holders to hosts would result in them turning the website off,” says RE1_VOD.

“Apart from the effort that was to be involved, personally, the whole thing killed my passion for the project. What started as something fun simply wasn’t anymore,” says PiraCee.

Despite the issues, Re1ease continued with their work but last month came news of a real game-changer – the attempt at extraditing TVShack.net admin Richard O’Dwyer to the US.

“This was one of the main reasons for the closure. We didn’t fancy a holiday of that nature,” PiraCee explains.

“The risks outweigh the pros of running a site like Re1ease now, then when we heard about TVShack, we thounoughtnough is enough.”

“Hopefully, in one way or another, if Re1ease was still being watched in the same was TVShack was, they will see the closure as willingness to co-operate and that will be the end of the matter. We really do feel for Mr O’Dwyer.”

So for Re1ease, this really is the end. Both admins send their thanks to the staff and users of the site but while PiraCee and RE1_VOD will stay online, priorities will change.

“We don’t plan on leaving the Internet, but we are going to concentrate on our personal lives. I myself have just got engaged and i’m in the middle of buying a house / starting a family,” PiraCee concludes.

As the world becomes ever more connected through the Internet and other networks, we are communicating like never before – more quickly and more often. But despite these greater links between us, through the myriad of so-called social-networks, it is easier than ever to forget that there are real people behind these mountains of text on screens.

Some of these are real people in the file-sharing community and they face difficult times – who can blame them when they make tough decisions? Their families won’t, that’s for certain.

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