How An Undercover Lawyer Helped to Topple Denmark’s Torrent Tracker Scene

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A few days ago, yet another former operator of a Danish torrent tracker received a suspended prison sentence, the latest conviction following the successful dismantling of Denmark's thriving piracy scene. This unprecedented crackdown started in 2020, but preparations began years earlier, when a local lawyer went 'undercover' at the private tracker DanishBits.

danishbitsLast Thursday, a Danish court sentenced a 24-year old programmer from Silkeborg to 60 days probation for his role in operating the torrent tracker ShareUniversity.

The sentencing is the latest in Denmark following an unprecedented crackdown on local torrent trackers that has already resulted in more than a dozen prosecutions, with more yet to come.

The National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) reports that it’s happy with the conviction. In addition to serving the suspended prison sentence, the man must also pay 20,000 Danish kroner ($2,800) to the Rights Alliance, which represents the copyright holders.

“I am satisfied with the verdict, which rests on a thorough investigative work. The judgment emphasizes that copyright infringement is a crime that is taken seriously by the legal system,” NSK’s prosecutor Jan Østergaard says.

Thus far, the Danish courts have mostly handed down suspended prison sentences, which makes the associated press releases a little repetitive. However, the Rights Alliance, which was a driving force in the early investigations, recently decided to share additional background.

Undercover Operation

Thomas Heldrup, the anti-piracy group’s Head of Content Protection & Enforcement, has been running an undercover operation for more than half a decade. This helped the police to pinpoint many of the targets and also played a role in the most recent prosecution.

“We were undercover at ShareUniversity and based on what we gathered from this work the authorities filed the case which led to last week’s sentence,” Heldrup tells TorrentFreak.

As detailed in the Danish podcast Zetland, it all started when the Rights Alliance went undercover at the private DanishBits tracker in 2016.

Heldrup initially registered as a regular user of the tracker seven years ago. He wasn’t interested in downloading movies or music. Instead, he tried to map and follow the site’s lead figures, with the ultimate goal of identifying the main boss, MrDB.

The undercover operation meticulously followed public discussions, taking notes on the tracker’s key figures. Occasionally, some comments would reveal people’s ages or occupations, but progress was slow. It eventually took a financial problem to really get the ball rolling.

MrDB was particularly cautious and didn’t share personal details. However, when there was an issue with the site’s Bitcoin donations he swiftly put up a new payment option, so users could pay directly in Danish kroner. This patch allowed the lawyer to follow the money, which was routed to a bank in Belize.

From the Caribbean to Africa

While it’s fitting for a pirate to bank in the Caribbean, the paper trail eventually led to the tracker’s downfall. The real breakthrough came when Heldrup’s constant monitoring revealed MrDB’s real name.

It’s not clear where the name surfaced but, according to Zetland’s writeup, it was mentioned during online arguments between Danish trackers, which had a long-running rivalry. That name, combined with the information from Belize, ultimately led to the operator, who was neither in the Caribbean nor in Denmark.

In the fall of 2020, Danish authorities eventually located the then 33-year-old DanishBits operator in Morocco, where he was arrested and eventually extradited to Denmark.

Tracker Domino

The arrest marked the end of the popular tracker and the start of a crackdown, which also hit a rival tracker around the same time. In that investigation, police identified the 69-year-old operator of NordicBits, who was living in Spain.

Under questioning, the NordicBits operator admitted his involvement in the site and agreed to shut it down voluntarily. Danish authorities intended to take the operator to court, but the man was seriously ill and passed away before being prosecuted.

The prosecution of MrDB continued and he eventually received a one-year prison sentence, of which nine months were conditional. Meanwhile, other targets were lining up as well.

After DanishBits and NordicBits shut down, two smaller trackers – Asgaard and ShareUniversity – took over. These sites accepted a lot of new members but also attracted the attention of the Rights Alliance and the police, which kept up the pressure.

With help from undercover work and follow-up investigations from the authorities, the trackers folded after a few weeks, effectively decimating the local torrent tracker scene.

Asgaard Shuts Down


Several people involved with these sites, including uploaders and users, were prosecuted, with many receiving suspended prison sentences.

Undercover Lawyer Speaks

Looking back at the past few years, Thomas Heldrup is proud of what was achieved. While the undercover work was important, the active collaboration between rightsholders and the dedicated IP crime unit of the Danish police, proved to be the key to success.

“Our work usually needs to be backed up with the investigation tools that the police have at their disposal to track and disclose information about the citizens,” Heldrup tells us.

The Right Alliance could have opted to file civil cases, but that wouldn’t have been as successful. The investigative tools of the authorities are broader and the anti-piracy group also believes that it’s more appropriate for the official authorities to bring these cases to justice.

Heldrup was sometimes surprised to see how much personal information staffers and uploaders shared online. At times, they were simply too eager to share, which eventually allowed both Rights Alliance and the police to connect the dots.

“I can say that our undercover work put us in a position to map what profiles were the crucial players in running the sites and where resources at the police were best spent to bring down the sites.

“We spent a long time collecting info that, when looked at as a whole, could lead to the identification of the people who have been arrested in these cases. And yes it did come as a surprise to what extent people are willing to share info about themselves on these platforms,” Heldrup concludes.

An overview of the cases prosecuted thus far can be found below. The trial against several alleged operators of the Asgaard tracker is scheduled for February next year. Danish readers can hear more about the undercover operation through the Zetland podcast.


Targets Service Date of judgement
ringleader ShareUniversity 05.10.2023
users and uploaders DanishBytes, Notor, SuperBits 13.09.2023
users and uploaders Asgaard 22.06.2023
ringleader(s) Asgaard 24.04.2023
ringleader(s) Seedbox 28.02.2023
users and uploaders DanishBytes 25.11.2022
ringleader(s) DanishBytes 14.11.2022
ringleader(s) Asgaard 03.11.2022
users and uploaders SuperBits / Nielsen Networks 01.09.2022
ringleader(s) Asgaard 15.03.2022
ringleader(s) Asgaard 15.03.2022
ringleader(s) Asgaard 04.02.2022
ringleader(s) Asgaard 15.06.2021
ringleader(s) DanishBits 27.04.2021
users and uploaders DanishBits 23.03.2021
ringleader(s) Plex-server 03.03.2021
ringleader(s) NextGen 07.05.2020
users and uploaders DanishBits 12.02.2020
users and uploaders DanishBits 25.06.2019
ringleader(s) Movielocker 01.11.2018

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