The Swedish hosting provider Portlane is being sued by several Hollywood movie studios for hosting the standalone BitTorrent tracker, OpenBitTorrent. The movie studios are claiming that OpenBitTorrent is a re-branded copy of The Pirate Bay tracker that shut down yesterday.
After the news broke that The Pirate Bay owners would sell the site to Global Gaming Factory, an independent tracker OpenBitTorrent (OBT) was launched. Due to its public nature, OBT was seen by some as a possible replacement for The Pirate Bay tracker.
Even though the sale never went through, OpenBitTorrent has proved its worth recently, since the Pirate Bay tracker had been struggling to stay online. That particular battle formally ended yesterday, with the announcement it had shut down for good.
OpenBitTorrent, Hollywood’s latest target
Unlike most BitTorrent trackers, OpenBitTorrent is not linked to a torrent site where users can download or search for torrents. Indeed, its involvement in the process is very much limited. The tracker is merely assisting in connecting peers with each other based on a hash value, without having any control over, or knowledge of what is being tracked. It also operates a clear DMCA-style takedown policy.
Despite this setup, the Hollywood movie studios have made the decision to try and shut it down by taking the tracker’s hosting company, Portlane, to court.
“OpenBitTorrent is used for file sharing, and we suspect that it is the Pirate Bay tracker with a new name. It is added by default on all of the torrent tracker files on Pirate Bay,” Hollywood lawyer Monique Wadsted said in a comment. She further noted that the domain of the tracker was originally registered by Fredrik Neij, one of the Pirate Bay founders.
For Portlane, this is not its first experience of a copyright holder demanding the takedown of a BitTorrent site it hosts. Earlier this year, the IFPI asked Portlane to close several BitTorrent sites, which they refused to do. This time around Portlane is not going to comply without a fight either, citing freedom of expression and freedom of information as their defense.
It is indeed questionable if OpenBitTorrent can be held responsible for any copyright infringements that may take place on BitTorrent. Aside from the alleged connection to The Pirate Bay, the site’s assistance in the downloading process is not greater than that of BitTorrent outfits Vuze and uTorrent. Indeed, it could be considered to be less.