Battle to Crush Iconic ‘Ethical’ Torrent Site Ends After Four Long Years

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TNTVillage was once the most popular torrent site in Italy. It had an ethics policy that prevented newly released content from being shared but that stood for nothing when the owner's home was raided in 2018. Despite the site closing down in 2019, legal action continued for another three years as copyright holders attempted to take down a solitary remaining hyperlink.

tntvillageWhen Italy-based torrent site TNTVillage launched in 2004/2005, the BitTorrent file-sharing scene was driven by passionate people with their own unique visions, often centered around specific content niches.

In many cases torrent site owners provided services that were just not offered in the legal market. Entire sites dedicated to one genre of music were common, as were downloads of movies and TV shows in specific languages or from long-forgotten eras.

For TNTVillage owner Luigi Di Liberto, the aim was to share and preserve Italian content. Like most torrent site owners, Luigi knew his venture could get him into trouble, but that would be nothing new. Born in 1952, Luigi supported the Radical Party and the anti-prohibitionist movement in Italy and, over several decades, regularly rubbed up against the establishment.

TNTVillage’s “Benevolent Dictator”

Luigi described himself as the “benevolent dictator” that held TNTVillage together. The site was a true passion project but in 2006 it suffered a setback when law enforcement authorities seized the site’s server.

The site eventually returned only to get hacked three years later, but Luigi refused to give up and later applied political pressure to limit the strength of copyright law. He was unsuccessful and eventually found himself targeted under the same legislation.

In 2018 a coalition of media and publishing companies filed a complaint against the platform at the Tribunale di Milano (Court of Milan). Luigi was personally named in the lawsuit and his home was searched.

The Beginning of the End…Almost

After making more than 134,000 copyrighted works available to the public, including movies, TV shows, anime, software, and books, TNTVillage shut itself down in September 2019. Two months later, the Court of Milan ruled on the copyright lawsuit filed the previous year, finding in favor of the plaintiffs.

The Court ordered TNTVillage to remove all infringing content from the site, which effectively put an official stamp on the torrent site’s earlier demise. But Luigi wasn’t quite done. His parting shot was to leave a link to a file on the site’s homepage containing a full dump of TNTVillage.

Another Three Years of Legal Action

Anti-piracy group FAPAV, a participant in the lawsuit, warned against anyone attempting to resurrect TNTVillage using the contents of the file. However, the archive also made it possible to access TNTVillage torrents by following instructions uploaded to the Internet Archive and Github. At least three services exploited the dump.

The link eventually disappeared from the TNTVillage homepage but in an announcement this week, FAPAV said that the Court of Milan has now officially ordered the removal of all content on TNTVillage.

This includes what FAPAV describes as a link providing “open access” to the site’s torrents, which “effectively disabled the removal order” handed down in 2019. In total it had taken four years of legal action to put TNTVillage completely out of action, with three of those years dedicated to removing a single hyperlink.

“Through this sentence it is reiterated again how the illegal making available online of creative works represents a serious violation that involves a dangerous limitation to the exploitation of the rights connected to it,” says President of FAPAV, Federico Bagnoli Rossi.

“Worrying economic damage is caused not only to the cultural industry but to the country as a whole.”

For those who understand Italian, Luigi shares his thoughts on TNTVillage below.


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