When trying to obtain elusive evidence to help formulate a legal strategy, most organizations tend to go through the court system. IFPI, the international music industry group, has just done it rather differently. When they needed a torrent site’s data recently they just called up their host, implied they might sue and then simply picked up the hard drives. Case in point, the Internet’s 10th biggest torrent site, LimeTorrents.
While the MPAA has shown a major interest in torrent sites over the years, their counterparts in the music industry have tended to focus their legal action on individuals and “shared folder” type services such as Napster, Kazaa, Grokster and more recently, LimeWire.
Not that the IFPI and their major label members are strangers to the torrent scene though. Dealing with The Pirate Bay has naturally taken up quite a lot of their time but it’s questionable whether that time has been well spent. The same cannot be said about LimeWire, who they utterly destroyed in the United States.
So having strangled Mark Gorton’s baby, where now for IFPI? The answer, it seems, is LimeWire’s namesake, LimeTorrents.
A relative newcomer to the BitTorrent scene, LimeTorrents has made rapid progress. Overall it was the best newcomer of 2010 in terms of traffic, even though it only appeared halfway through the year. It ended 2010 as the 10th largest torrent site in the world, a huge achievement.
Then, on April 5th and with no warning, LimeTorrents went offline. TorrentFreak learned that LimeTorrents had been ‘raided’ but unusually there was no announcement by the Swedish police, who are usually keen to publicize such events. So what happened?
The root of the story goes back to October 2010. IFPI wrote to Itstaden/ServerConnect, the host of not only LimeTorrents but several other major sites including KickassTorrents. In an attempt to pressure the host, IFPI were waving The Pirate Bay verdict around.
Specifically, they drew attention to the decision of the Svea Court of Appeal, which said that The Pirate Bay’s former host, Black Internet, could be held liable for TPB’s activities.
Following this IFPI contact some of the sites at ServerConnect relocated to new hosts abroad, but KickassTorrents, TorrentDownloads and LimeTorrents all remained in Sweden. This prompted further communication from IFPI in March 2011, advising ServerConnect that among other things they could be guilty of “receiving payment from criminal activities”.
So, paraphrasing IFPI: “You’re hosting torrent sites, you know what they’re doing, shut them down, or we’ll get the courts to do it for you.”
But courts have expensive and long-winded processes and, as can be seen from The Pirate Bay’s case, they don’t necessarily have much effect. So IFPI tried a tactic previously employed by Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
Without a court ruling or assistance from the police or any official authority, IFPI simply asked ServerConnect for LimeTorrent’s hard drives. And, under threat of legal action similar to that used against Black Internet, ServerConnect handed them over, taking LimeTorrents completely offline. LimeTorrents’ owner received no warning and was given no chance to make a backup.
ServerConnect were told by IFPI that the drives and data would be returned, but that has not happened. The owner of LimeTorrents was forced to restore the site from a 2 month old backup and return with a new ISP, but not before being ‘punished’ by Google for the unexpected downtime. He is now trying to rebuild the site.
This morning, TorrentFreak asked IFPI why they were so interested in LimeTorrents and what they were hoping to find on their servers, but perhaps unsurprisingly we are yet to receive a response. But let’s hazard a guess.
Could to be that IFPI is hoping to build a case against LimeTorrents on the basis that it has a similar name and logo to LimeWire, and thus hoped to attract users from that “illegal service”? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that the major labels had tried that. A similar strategy worked against LimeWire itself when they were shown to have targeted users of Napster, another service which was deemed illegal.