The Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group FACT visited another file-sharing site operator yesterday but their actions may have inadvertently caused additional problems. The operator of NzbX informs TorrentFreak that while his site will indeed shut down during the next few hours, he will not be handing his domain to FACT as ordered. Instead the site will offer a one-click-install Open Source package that will allow others to run their own indexers.
For some time the Federation Against Copyright Theft has been making life difficult for UK-based operators of file-sharing sites.
The movie industry-funded group identifies sites it would like to close, works to identity their admins, and turns up at their homes in order to add weight to their shutdown demands. On the whole, it has to be said, their tactics are effective.
FACT has done a lot of work against Usenet sites in recent times, most recently forcing the shutdown of NZBsRus. Barely a week later and another site has received personalized threats.
NzbX is a public Usenet search engine that has automatically indexed around five million releases. It’s been in existence since December 2012 following the NZBMatrix shutdown and since then has registered 130,000 members and serviced many more. Yesterday lunchtime its admin, Lemon – a 26-year-old recovering from a recent heart attack – had an unexpected visitor.
“I was in bed, recovering, I’m sleeping a lot – my partner is also recovering from surgery that limits her movement,” Lemon told TorrentFreak.
“I heard a buzz at the door. I ignored it twice, thinking if it was important they’d be louder. I heard something go through my letterbox and I stumbled downstairs to find an envelope without a stamp – which I thought was odd. Upon opening the envelope I found a letter from FACT.”
Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988
I visited your premises earlier today, Thursday 4th July 2013 accompanied by an Officer from [redacted] Trading Standards, in respect of the above web-site that we believe is owned and operated by yourself.
I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in respect of this matter to help resolve some issues in an expedient manner.
As a result of my visit I will be staying overnight within the [redacted] area and can meet with you at any time on the 4th or 5th at your convenience.
If this is not possible I can arrange to meet with you at a location and time to suit you.
Either way, please contact as below so that an appointment can be made.
[FACT Officer name redacted]
“About 20 minutes later I called the number, and the FACT guy stated he was waiting outside still. He showed up, without the officer from Trading Standards this time. At this point, he pulled out an A4 portrait photo of myself (that I can only find on my highly private Facebook) and asked if that was me. My response was something along the lines of ‘That is God damn creepy’,” Lemon explains.
As usual, FACT were quick to point out their successful prosecution against SurfTheChannel (STC) admin Anton Vickerman hoping that Lemon would see the similarities. He didn’t.
“I [told FACT that] I do not run anything like STC. I do not run a video streaming site. I make available XML descriptor files (.NZB) which describe content posted on newsgroups. We act upon DMCA requests and we do not curate content, I do not actively go out of my way to upload the latest episode of Who Gives a Fuck,” Lemon said.
The FACT officer thought otherwise and indicated that the sites were the same.
“What, so SurfTheChannel was a Usenet indexer?” Lemon questioned.
After some back and forth on the potential for criminal prosecution over profits made by nzbX (Lemon admits making only losses on the site), FACT’s target says he got bored. He informed the investigator that he was in the process of handing the site over to someone else in Europe but he’d be happy to transfer FACT’s paperwork to them. FACT indicated if those new owners happened to be in Sweden, the group had “good relationships” there.
Lemon says that he later spoke with the site’s potential new operators who considered the situation and decided they wanted out. They handed the domain back, but Lemon says he won’t be signing it over to FACT as requested. However, NzbX will be changing dramatically.
“I’ve decided to do the following. Shut down the index, modify the code base – open source it, and make it available as a one-click installer so people can run their own local indexers. I’ll also enable the ecosystem mode so comments, ratings, etc would be shared amongst all installations (if enabled), as well as NZB file sync through the cloud,” Lemon explains.
“The nzbX index itself will be shut down within the next 24 hours. I would like to point out that it is not closing down due to external pressure – but due to my health problems, and the fact that I have a new plan which seems like a far smarter alternative.”
So, another UK-based NZB site bites the dust. The question now is how many people will step up to replace it, with or without Lemon’s code.