Government Blocks Torrent Site, Citizens Protest

May 2006 saw the admin of one of Bulgaria's largest BitTorrent trackers arrested by the police, accused of putting links to over 20 million copyright works on the internet. Despite the fact he has been released, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry has now ordered all ISP's to block access to the torrent site.

Eliyan Geshev was the administrator of Arenabg.com, Bulgaria’s largest BitTorrent site, which is among the 10 most visited websites in the country. He was originally arrested in late May 2006 and although it is unclear if he was released on bail in the meantime, it is now being reported that he has been released. By order of the Sophia Town Court, Geshev was freed due to “lack of grounds for his arrest”. As he tried to leave the courtroom, security guards struck journalists trying to interview him. The journalists say they intend to complain.

Despite Geshev’s apparent innocence, a Bulgarian Interior Ministry order has stopped clients of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) accessing the arenabg tracker. Organized crime fighting supremo Yavor Kolev said that all ISP’s have been ordered to block access to arenabg.com.

Bulgaria had promised to “show no mercy” to site administrators who illegally distribute copyright material but as BitTorrent trackers merely point to content and do not host it, it is unclear what they intend to do about them. Blocking access to the sites, regardless of their legality appears to be one option.

However, it seems that Bulgarian citizens are not pleased with this course of action and intend to make a public protest in support of torrent site administrators who they believe are being unfairly treated. On March 15th, the organisers applied to the Sophia Municipality to hold their demonstration which will protest against what they claim is illegal state-sponsored action against Bulgarian torrent site administrators.

The protest will take place on March 22nd in front of the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral.

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