Last week saw many Hungarian BitTorrent trackers and warez sites shut down by the police. Is it just a coincidence that the US is planning to put a federal prosecutor in Budapest, Hungary to “assist in the coordination of the enforcement of intellectual property laws”? Probably not.
Last week, Hungary witnessed some of the most aggressive action against BitTorrent trackers and warez sites the country has ever seen. Normally considered a relative safe-haven for file-sharers, Hungarian police conducted raids on six locations using around 80 police officers to seize around a claimed 100 servers. New information suggests this number has been exaggerated with the true number actually being around 30. In addition, home addresses were raided and hard drives seized.
Not only were the servers of torrent sites seized – such as those from Bithumen, BitLove, Moobs and GigaTorrents but also those of other warez sites, sms warez servers and 100% legal game servers. Other sites involved in the raids are Bitgate, Cinemastores, Darkside, Majomparade, Pretorians and Savaria which in true hydra-style have all returned. The private BitTorrent tracker Bithumen is also promising to return using a backup from one-week ago and some are reassuring its users that the server didn’t carry any IP addresses so they cannot be identified, although this is unconfirmed.
It seems that many completely innocent parties have had their servers taken. Although back now, the invite-only social networking site IWIW also went down temporarily during the raids. According to a source, the Hungarian police were extremely short of technical staff who might be able to identify the correct servers to take, so in the style of the Swedish police at last year’s Pirate Bay raid, they simply took them all.
The raids were co-ordinated by ASVA, a Hungarian industry association similar to the BSA and prompted many other torrent admins to take down their sites. Some were showing messages indicating the sites were down for maintenance or had some sort of technical difficulties.
Interestingly, last week, news.com reported on the introduction of a bill in the US – the so-called ‘Pirate Act’ which would allow the US Justice Department to file lawsuits against those it accuses of engaging in copyright infringement and, by way of compensation, send the financial spoils to the organization holding the copyright.
Tucked away at the bottom of the article is a possible indicator as to why this massive action was taken in Hungary. From the article:
The new version of the Pirate Act, in addition to civil enforcement, also:
* Creates an “operational unit” of at least 10 FBI agents to investigate intellectual property offenses. It requires the Justice Department to assign a federal prosecutor to Hong Kong and Budapest, Hungary, “to assist in the coordination of the enforcement of intellectual property laws” and allocates $12 million per year.
Although the Pirate Act isn’t in force yet, it’s not difficult to imagine the pressure which the Hungarian government must’ve been under from the United States. Cleaning up the ‘problem’ before the US arrives to really turn on the screws should relieve some of that pressure. Additionally, a lot of pressure data-wise was removed from the Hungarian internet infrastructure as disappearing sites caused a dramatic reduction in traffic.
As the dust settles it appears that torrent sites were not the main targets of the police but the pay to download warez sites, such as the ones which require payment by premium SMS message. It’s convenient for the authorities to portray torrent sites in the same light as pay warez sites and even though there is rarely a charge to use a torrent site, it’s easy to imply to the general public that they’re all criminals.
Further raids have been promised.
Thanks go to misnyo and _bc for translating