File-Sharing Sites Unfazed By Takedowns, Bounce Right Back

Opinion

During the last few weeks many file-sharing sites have been taken down by threats, legal action and police raids. From the mighty Pirate Bay to lesser known torrent sites across Europe and streaming giants around the world, the theme isn't capitulation after a setback, but getting back online as quickly as possible.

Ever since file-sharing sites and services have existed, someone, somewhere, has been plotting to take them down. Some of the early and most high-profile actions were against relative giants such as Napster, KaZaA and Grokster. These resulted in expensive and prolonged legal battles which all but smashed their intended targets but as file-sharing fragmented – particularly with the introduction of BitTorrent – a handful of potential targets became dozens, significantly complicating anti-piracy actions.

Within a very short space of time, those dozens of new BitTorrent sites became hundreds, and the hundreds became thousands. The MPAA outwardly took this evolution in its stride, slowly but methodically targeting some of the most prominent venues, eventually more or less ridding the United States of notable torrent sites.

While takedowns such as those at LokiTorrent and the federal action against EliteTorrents had somewhat of a psychological impact worldwide, for torrent site admins it meant that the rules had simply been clarified. Time to leave the US and head abroad, an action largely carried out by site operators with a few keystrokes.

Ever since those particularly dark days back in 2005, there has been action taken against file-sharing sites of all sizes. Many sites have disappeared under varying styles of pressure, or become much less usable, Mininova an obvious example. But while rulings against file-sharing activities in general have created an impression of a tightening noose, it seems that along with the dawning of 2010 has come renewed confidence to fight back and treat takedowns of all types as an occupational hazard.

How many threats, takedowns, rulings, decisions, blockages and raids will it take to remove The Pirate Bay from the Internet? It seems that nothing can do the job. Threats didn’t work. Civil action hasn’t worked. Police raids didn’t work. Threatening ISPs hasn’t worked. Even the promise of jail sentences has produced no results.

The much-hailed assault against the market-leading Usenet indexer Newzbin and their recent defeat in court was meant to send a message to those hoping to utilize the increased usability of newsgroups and the possibility of profiting from the content found there. End result – the entire site back online with the same URL, movies being added by the dozen and the new owners openly announcing they intend to turn a profit on the site.

So with the leading BitTorrent and Usenet indexers proving adaptive, what about yet another attack on the leading release news site, RLSLOG? That was tried earlier this year and again just a short while ago and the end result proved as successful as the takedowns on TPB and Newzbin. RLSLOG was back up in a few days, business as usual and seemingly completely unfazed by the threats.

In June, Hungarian police tried their hand at smashing up the country’s BitTorrent scene with raids on a number of sites. The main target was the 900,000 peer nCore tracker and after initially hiding behind a proxy, it too was ultimately taken down. But as is the common theme at the moment, that site has also just bounced back, proudly displaying a phoenix graphic on their login page.

At the end of June there was outrage as Bulgarian police took down online library Chitanka.info, a valued source of user translated and submitted books, poems and other literature. Just 9 days after the operation to take down the site, creator Borislav Manolov has been speaking in an interview where he reveals, amongst other things, that the site is now back and fully operational with zero data loss.

And finally, last week saw unprecedented action by US authorities to seize the domains of a handful of sites connected to the streaming, linking to, and storage of, still-in-theater movies. While most remained down, immediately TVShack and Movies-Links returned with new URLs. Will the others return? Maybe, maybe not, but others will almost certainly fill the gap – outside the US, with non-US hosts and non-US staff.

It appears that while most file-sharing sites are aware that they run an increased risk of being monitored and targeted in 2010, many already have backup plans in place to recover in the event of action against them. By treating raids and ISP shutdowns as a disaster recovery situation no different than a hardware failure, file-sharing sites can in many cases mitigate the effects of action with careful planning, a handful of emails and a few minutes of keystrokes.

The question is, how will the copyright enforcers respond?

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