In late April, Ukrainian authorities shut down Pornolab, the largest adult BitTorrent tracker in the world. Ostensibly the action was taken due to the site breaking strict laws designed to limit access to porn by minors, but a Russian pornstar has suggested otherwise. He claims that it was his complaints that led to the site going down not just once, but twice.
Until the end of last month, the Russian torrent tracker Pornolab had operated happily out of a datacenter in Ukraine. With previous market leaders Empornium and PureTNA dead and buried, Pornolab became the world’s largest adult BitTorrent site, serving around 2 million registered users.
Then on April 27th police in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, swooped on the site’s datacenter and seized its servers. Interestingly for a case of this type, the complaints that led to this seizure were not based in copyright law, but in legislation designed to limit Ukrainian minors’ access to pornography.
The action certainly raised eyebrows. Although Pornolab is undoubtedly directing illicit traffic, under Ukrainian law it would have to be distributing the unlawful data itself to be held liable.
“In terms of procedure, it would be very difficult to hold torrent organisers responsible,” said Tetiana Popova, chief executive officer of the Internet Association of Ukraine (InAU), commenting on site operator liability.
“They do not know who seeds content or how much of it is uploaded. It is seeded in parts to many computers. The same for the leeches who receive information, gathering it in pieces from hundreds of other computers,” added Popova.
Nevertheless, with Ukraine clearly unsafe a few days later Pornolab resurfaced, this time in a Lithuanian datacenter. The move did not go well. Although the site came back online briefly it quickly disappeared, taken offline by its new host ZServers. According to Pornolab’s admin, money paid to the company is not being returned “for frivolous reasons”.
So after long periods of trouble-free running, Pornolab has been taken offline twice in less than a month and if ex-Russian pornstar and now singer Alexander Pistols is to be believed, that is down to him.
Information published by adult news site Sex News suggests that after Pistols learned that Pornolab had become one the biggest torrent sites of its type (and helping to distribute his movies), he delivered a written complaint to a Moscow prosecutor.
Five months passed and following more correspondence between Pistols and the authorities, in April the site was closed down – albeit by the Ukranian authorities as detailed above.
Two days later and after a brief relocation to Lithuania, Pornolab was down again, with Sex News claiming that Pistols was now celebrating “two victories”.
Unfortunately for Pistols though, those celebrations were cut short.
“For reasons beyond our control we were forced to change hosting provider, which led to the temporary unavailability of the tracker,” reported the admin of a yet again fully-functioning Pornolab. The site had moved further and further west, from Ukraine to Lithuania and then to their new and current home of Germany.
Whether or not Alexander Pistols really did carry enough influence with the authorities to pull these shutdowns out of the bag remains to be seen, but Pornolab don’t appear to be throwing in the towel anytime soon.
However, some user reports suggest that for at least a while the site could not be accessed in Ukraine, Lithuania or Germany. If these reports are indeed true and the blocks are persistent, the site could be taking action to firewall troublesome locations in order to fend off legal action, a strategy that has already proved successful by Ukraine-hosted Demonoid. That said, with as many as 700,000 Ukranian members, this would be a punishing move for Pornolab.