In 2007, the admin of a private BitTorrent tracker was arrested after Portuguese law enforcement targeted his site and closed it down. Overturning an earlier decision by a lower court, the Lisbon Court of Appeal has now decided that the admin will face a full trial for his actions. In the meantime the site continues, albeit under another name.
Following two criminal complaints, one submitted jointly by the MPA-affiliated Portuguese Phonographic Association (AFP) and the Federation of Editors of Video (FEVIP), and another solely by FEVIP, four years ago three file-sharing sites – Btuga, Zetuga and Zemula, with a combined 200,000 users – were targeted by the authorities.
The Polícia Judiciária, a police division dedicated to fighting organized and financial crime, terrorism, drugs and corruption, eventually executed six search warrants against the sites in July 2007.
The private BitTorrent tracker Btuga was of particular interest. According to a study carried out in 2005, the site led the national rankings for the total number of hours citizens spent surfing a single website – 478,000 hours – and was the 3rd most-visited site in the country with 110,000 daily users.
The creator and admin of Btuga, Martini-Man (real name Luis Ferreira), was arrested on accusations of copyright infringement and has been awaiting his final fate ever since.
Last week the Lisbon Court of Appeal overturned a 2010 ruling by the Court Of Inquiry and decided that Ferreira should indeed be tried for copyright infringement offenses.
The ruling, which was handed down on April 14th, noted that “the defendant used P2P networks and the BitTorrent protocol for the sole and exclusive purpose of sharing or allow sharing of files protected by copyright.”
The Court said that Ferreira had “sent a clear message to the users, which also included himself, that it was the tracker’s purpose to allow the sharing of movies, music, games and videos of the most recent releases [that] they possessed, so that such an exchange would benefit all users of the network because it would cost nothing monetarily to any of them, namely payment of copyrights.”
Contrary to the earlier ruling from the Court of Inquiry, the Court of Appeal said that Ferreira had “made use of lawful means [BitTorrent] to accomplish unlawful ends”, i.e the sharing of copyright protected material.
The court documents further stated that Ferreira provided “premium services”. This is an apparent reference to giving so-called ‘upload credits’ to improve sharing ratio in exchange for donations, a common practice on many private trackers. In fact, this is how many sites of this type finance their operations.
A TorrentFreak source familiar with the situation told us that a few weeks after Ferreira’s arrest, the source code from Btuga leaked and an identical site reappeared under a new name, BTNext. Unlike Btuga, BTNext is not hosted in Portugal and remains operational to this day.