Earlier this week tips coming into TorrentFreak suggested that a relatively small torrent site known as Sparvar had come under the scrutiny of the police. Sure enough, the site subsequently went offline.
Problems had been building for more than two years. Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Antipiratbyran) had built up an interest in Sparvar, a site directed at a largely Swedish audience. In early 2012 following action against a private site known as Swepiracy, Rights Alliance warned that Sparvar was on their list of targets.
Until this week, however, Sparvar had been hosted in Canada with Montreal-based Netelligent Hosting Services. For some time it had been presumed that hosting a torrent site is Canada is legal, a notion that was recently backed up by Netelligent president Mohamed Salamé.
“[As] long as there are no violations of our [acceptable use policy], we take no actions against torrent sites which are still legal in Canada,” Salamé told TF.
Nevertheless, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) still took action against Sparvar. How did this come to pass?
A source familiar with the case who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity told TorrentFreak that Netelligent was served with a data preservation order by the RCMP who were working together with authorities in Sweden.
In the first instance Netelligent were gagged from informing their client about the investigation, presumably so that no data could be tampered with. Netelligent was then sent a hard drive by the RCMP for the purposes of making a copy of the Sparvar server. This was to be handed over to their authorities.
We’re led to believe that Netelligent put up a fight to protect their customer’s privacy but in the end they were left with no choice but to comply with the orders. And here’s why.
MLAT, or Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty agreements, enable countries to gather, share and exchange information in order to enforce the law. Since 2001, Canada has had an MLAT with Sweden and since there was a criminal investigation underway in Sweden against Sparvar, Canada and Netelligent were legally obligated to provide assistance in the case.
So what does this mean for other sites hosted in Canada? Well, according to our source anyone running a site should be aware of the countries that Canada has MLAT agreements with, just in case another country decides to launch a case.
Those countries can be found here but they include everyone from the United States to Australia, from China to Russia, and many countries across Europe including the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, France and Italy.
Finally, our source informs us that while cooperation in criminal cases has obviously been requested before, to the extent of his knowledge this is the first time that a torrent site has been a target.