When it comes finding out the personal details of a pirate, whether that’s the user of a regular consumer-level ISP or the operator of a large torrent or linking site, the usual method is via court order.
Such orders are obtained in a variety of ways, but it usually involves presenting evidence and having a judge compel a provider to hand over whatever details it has on file. This happens in at least hundreds of cases every year.
Of current interest is a report from anti-piracy outfit BREIN. The Dutch-based operation says it’s investigating three as-yet-unnamed linking sites that have been distributing large quantities of popular movies and TV shows hosted on a cyberlocker.
BREIN has been trying to uncover the identities of the people behind the sites since this makes it much easier to ramp up the pressure. Indeed, once their names are known, some site operators have a tendency to throw in the towel.
The first stage of this process was fairly straightforward since the pirates were using servers belonging to a local hosting provider. This gave BREIN a nice start to its investigation and it’s all thanks to case law established more than a decade ago.
In 2003, stamp dealer and lawyer Augustinus Pessers was wrongfully accused of fraud by an individual posting on a website operated by Internet service provider Lycos. Pessers began legal action, demanding that the allegations be taken down. He also wanted to force Lycos to hand over the name and address of the poster making the allegations.
After two years of litigation and against a defense mounted by Lycos, in November 2005 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that Lycos must hand over the personal details of the user to Pessers. The stamp dealer had won and outfits such as BREIN received a welcome boost.
Armed with this case law, BREIN found that the servers used by the pirate sites in their current investigation were Dutch-based, at hosting company Serverius. Under the Pessers ruling the company would have to comply with a disclosure request. However, those servers were actually operated by another company based overseas.
3NT Solutions is a UK-based hosting provider owned by companies in Belize and Panama. According to BREIN, 3NT handed over the personal details of the pirate sites it was hosting at Serverius, without a court order.
“These details consist of name, address, e-mail address and payment details. 3NT also ceased its hosting services to the illegal sites at issue,” BREIN says.
Normally when anti-piracy companies want to find out the identities of an ISP’s customers in the UK, they obtain a court order known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order. In this case, BREIN says that wasn’t needed, since 3NT had servers in the Netherlands.
“Both Serverius as well as 3NT have a legal responsibility to assist in curtailing piracy. Simply being based – or registered – in another country than where the servers are, does not mean one can escape that responsibility,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.
Kuik says that both Serverius and 3NT were “reluctant to abide by their responsibilities” but they also know that BREIN would sue them if they didn’t comply and would likely lose the case and end up losing money.
“Under Dutch case law – based on EU rules – intermediaries are obliged to provide identifying details voluntarily upon request in case of infringement and damage, and the interests of the injured party prevails,” Kuik adds.
“In the Netherlands, it is a regular occurrence for BREIN that identifying details are provided by intermediaries voluntarily upon request. Court cases are exceptional,” he concludes.
BREIN say that more and more companies outside the Netherlands, include Google recently, have been following these disclosure rules.
Meanwhile, Kuik and his colleagues say that with personal details in hand they will continue their quest against the operators of the pirate sites in question, and the cyberlocker they were using.
3NT did not immediately respond to TorrentFreak’s requests for comment.