Anti-piracy groups are often quick to label file-sharing sites as criminal organizations, but these outfits also have some rotten apples among their own.
There is a lot of money to be made protecting copyright holders, and it appears that people are willing to break the law to increase their profits.
This week, Indian police arrested two engineers of the Indian anti-piracy company MarkScan. The two allegedly impersonated local competitor Aiplex to hijack their clients.
According to local reports, MarkScan CEO Abhishek Dhoreliya is the brains behind the scam. He allegedly hired the two engineers, one of whom worked at Aiplex until very recently.
The pair, Ami Vivek and Sushant Mohindru, stand accused of operating a fake Aiplex website at aiplex.us, complete with a fake email address of the company’s owner. They used this to inform clients that Aiplex was shutting down, encouraging them to switch to Markscan.
This strategy paid off as several rightsholders including MTV, Colors, Fox Star, Eros International, and Bollywoodlife fell for the trick.
Perplexed by the sudden exodus, Aiplex’s founder reached out to his former clients to find out what had happened. After he learned that someone had impersonated his company, he filed a complaint with the police, who traced the site back to the MarkScan employees.
“Markscan, which saw Aiplex as a bigger rival, decided to hijack its clients,” a senior police officer said, commenting on the investigation.
“During the investigation, we were able to get the IP address and traced it to Delhi. We caught Vivek and Sushant who said they were acting at the behest of Dhoreliya,” the officer noted.
Thus far police have only apprehended the two engineers. However, the investigation is ongoing and more arrest may follow in the near future.
Regular TorrentFreak readers may recognize MarkScan from its dubious takedown notices. The company has sent preemptive takedown warnings to torrent sites, tried to have BBC iPlayer removed from Google, and regularly targeted sites over non-existing torrent files.
MarkScan CEO Abhishek Dhoreliya previously denied that they’ve sent some or these erreneous notices. Interestingly, he accused others of running an imposter website of his company, sending bogus takedown noitices on their behalf.
“We got to know from OVH that they have been receiving several fake notices where the sender has created a replica website of MarkScan with the name of markscan.co,” Dhoreliya told us earlier this year.
At the time of writing, MarkScan appears to be operating as usual. The website is still online, listing several prominent rightsholders including HBO, Nokia, and the BBC as recent clients, and MPA India as one of its partners.
Update Nov 19: Markscan has provided the following update:
“MarkScan and all its team members have been granted immunity by the court. Granted immunity means that nobody can be arrested until there is incremental evidence which can be presented, the current evidence does not justify the action that has been taken thus far,” Abhishek Dhoreliya explains.
“Police (IO) in the matter have been issued a show cause notice by the court to explain why the due process was not followed. We hope to put this bitter experience behind us. All our clients reposed their full trust in us and for that we are thankful.”