Anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen say they have been busy recently tracking down piracy ‘masterminds’. After busting who they claim is the leader of a huge movie piracy group, last week they had the police detain a less likely target – a 19-year-old law student who runs a file-sharing blog. RettighedsAlliancen say that guides on his site showed readers how to break the law, an act serious enough to involve the police.
On November 2nd, lawyers from RettighedsAlliancen, officials from the bailiff’s court and computer experts called at the home of an individual claimed to be a leading movie pirate.
The man, known online as Kefissos, stands accused of being connected to the ‘After Dark’ release group and responsible for the illegal uploading of hundreds of movies. Although it’s not certain they belong to the man, accounts in the name of Kefissos can be found on several leading torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, and many of the movies indexed have Danish connections.
But RettighedsAlliancen’s work this month had only just begun.
On Tuesday last week, as usual 19-year-old law student Halfdan Timm was studying at the University of Aarhus. Half a mile away the occupants of an unmarked Ford Mondeo car were unsuccessfully trying to track Halfdan down at his apartment. A little later during a break in his lectures Halfdan was confronted by police officers.
“I was given two options,” Halfdan explains. “Either I could go quietly with the two policemen, or I could be arrested and ‘do it the hard way’.”
Halfdan told TorrentFreak that he was under suspicion of “piratkopiering” (piracy-copying), and that the police had a search warrant for his apartment.
Not wanting to make life difficult, Halfdan chose the easy way and took the police to his home. Once there the police asked him if he had anything to show them in advance of their search. Halfdan pointed to his desktop computer containing downloaded songs and informed them that he had a collection of 50 downloaded movies burned on DVD.
“One policeman in rubber gloves then began a very careful examination. Sofa pillows, broom closet, refrigerator, my dirty underwear, the rest of my wardrobe, my entire bedroom, under my bed, toilet and even my roommate’s room – even though he has nothing to do with the case,” Halfdan adds.
Then the discussion moved on to the 40,000-member NextGen site, a private BitTorrent tracker founded in February 2010. NextGen is also home to Sublime, a group supplying local subtitles for all the latest Hollywood movies.
“At first, they tried to figure out whether I was leading the tracker, searching for hidden equipment in the apartment, but when they realized that wasn’t the case, they tried to get as much information as possible about the actual owners.”
Halfdan doesn’t deny being a member of the site and admits he has downloaded movies and music, but according to comments made to Politiken by RettighedsAlliancen chief Maria Fredenslund, Halfdan is a file-sharing “mastermind”.
“By mastermind we mean one who stands behind file-sharing services,” she said. “We came across him in connection with our investigations and have notified the police.”
Halfdan puts the “mastermind” label down to simple stupidity but believes he may have been targeted for another reason – running a file-sharing related blog.
GratisFilm.info was founded by Halfdan in February 2011 and contains posts covering issues such as staying anonymous online (Halfdan notes the irony) and using seedboxes.
“It’s quite an idealistic cause for me, as I believe being anonymous online is (should be) a human right,” Halfdan told TorrentFreak.
“On the site, I guide on how to stay anonymous, gain access to The Pirate Bay even though it’s blocked in Denmark, but also about more ‘common’ subjects like new South Park episodes, the forthcoming Google Music, who Anonymous (the group) is and so on. Pretty much everything I find interesting. I believe using the police is [RettighedsAlliancen's] way of shutting me down.”
GratisFilm also carries reviews on a handful of BitTorrent sites, including NextGen. In early October, Halfdan interviewed the site’s owner, a fact he discussed with the police. This, he believes, has led some to believe he has a personal relationship with the site’s owner.
Halfdan’s assertion, that he was targeted because of his negativity towards anti-piracy companies, is rejected by RettighedsAlliancen, but they are clearly unimpressed with some of his articles.
“I was not aware that he criticized RettighedsAlliancen,” said Maria Fredenslund.
“But we can see that he teaches others to break the law and conceal themselves on the net. He is one of those who deliberately break the law. We believe that this was something that was so serious that it should be handled by the police.”
So are the police taking the matter seriously?
“The officers told me even they thought this was a waste of time, and that they could use their day better than driving around the whole day to pick up 50 movies and a computer,” Halfdan told us.
“I’m very surprised that the police went in on the case at all, but it does say quite a bit that they waited 3 months [after the initial complaint] to move, and that it’ll take at least 6 months before they start investigating my computer. This has a very, very low priority for them.”
Troels Møller, Piratgruppen spokesman and co-founder of internet think-tank Bitbureauet, is clearly outraged at this latest entertainment industry response to the file-sharing issue, describing it as completely disproportionate.
“Just as I thought Antipiratgruppen was becoming a bit more reasonable lately, they show their evil face from the old days again – the days of threat letters and blackmail,” he told TorrentFreak. “They were ransacking his apartment and searching through his dirty clothes! All this for copying some stuff on the internet? Where are the proportions? Is this really how the entertainment industry wants to treat its fans and customers?”
“What strikes me most about this case though, is that Maria Fredenslund apparently thinks that people should be arrested for teaching others how to use the internet anonymously. I would like to point out that this is not illegal! They don’t care about privacy or freedom of expression. In fact, they appear to be outright enemies of these fundamental rights.”
“Denmark is quickly becoming a frightening and shameful example to the rest of the world on how not to handle the filesharing ‘problem’,” Troels concludes.