Every year, tens of thousands of people are scammed into paying for free file-sharing software. Over the years this has evolved into a multi-million dollar business damaging legitimate American companies such as BitTorrent, FrostWire and Vuze. So why is ICE not seizing the domain names of these known scammers? Or viewing it from another angle, perhaps SOPA might come in handy after all…
Let’s start off by saying that SOPA should never ever be passed. However, there’s an interesting parallel between the reasons cited by the entertainment industry when they push forward anti-piracy legislation and problems faced by file-sharing companies.
Enter the multi-million dollar business of P2P-scammers.
For more than a decade all sorts of shady companies have been ripping off novice file-sharers by tricking them into downloading scam products. Their sites appear to offer downloads for software such as uTorrent, Vuze, LimeWire and FrostWire, but the free clients come with a twist.
In some cases people have to pay for the download ‘service’ while others simply install a malware-infested program on users’ computers. There are even scam outfits that do both.
Talking to TorrentFreak, FrostWire‘s Angel Leon explains that because of these scams they get loads of refund requests every day, hurting the company’s reputation. The scammers on the other hand make huge profits.
“The big harm done here is to our trademark,” Leon says.
“They blatantly use our logo and our name, they’ve also managed to game Google big time with a shitload of content farm websites to the point that they’re placed 2nd in Google’s search results, so they must be making a killer.”
The pictures on the right are just a few examples of the thousands of scam sites on the Internet. All of them rip-off novice consumers by letting them download rogue versions of FrostWire.
“The damages we feel are basically our users being victims of these people and threatening us for something we haven’t done,” Leon told us.
“Then there’s all the work we do to promote our brand as the way to use P2P for legal purposes gone to hell, because of the way the scammers encourage copyright infringement,” he adds.
Unfortunately, there is not much file-sharing companies can do about these scams. FrostWire actually went as far as hiring a company that’s specialized in sending takedown requests, but without results. And even if one scam domain is shut down, another will replace it the day after.
Scammers know how to route around censorship.
According to Leon, Google isn’t very helpful either. While the legit version of FrostWire is not allowed to advertise on Google’s Adwords, the scammers are slipping through by the dozens.
“It’s very interesting to notice that somehow they manage to go past the Google AdWords guidelines and they spend a lot of money on advertising everyday on the “frostwire” related keywords,” Leon told TorrentFreak.
“On the other hand, if we try to advertise FrostWire as a file sending application, we get a boot from Google saying that we are P2P software.”
FrostWire and other file-sharing companies hope that enough people ask for a refund from the credit card companies so the scammers have a hard time accepting money. Other than that there’s not much they can do. Or is there?
Reading the above shows that the problems FrostWire and others face are similar to those described in the pro-SOPA talking points of the entertainment industries.
There is one major difference though. Unlike Hollywood, file-sharing companies such as FrostWire fully realize that such a broad censorship law would do more harm than good. Also, P2P scammers actually cause millions of dollars in damages to the public.