In recent weeks, however, worry about the future has increased drastically among the owners of some of the largest torrent sites. Yesterday, BTjunkie closed its doors for good, and TorrentFreak has learned that at least two other sites in the top 10 have toyed with the same idea.
“There have been talks of shutting our site down, even before BTjunkie did it,” one admin told TorrentFreak on condition of anonymity.
The aggressive actions against MegaUpload – site founder Kim Dotcom was raided by an anti-terrorist squad last month – are frequently mentioned as cause for concern. So much so that several people involved with one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet have already dropped out.
“A couple guys on the staff decided not to be involved anymore with the site after the MegaUpload incident,” the admin told us.
The fact that a German citizen can be arrested in New Zealand upon request from the US authorities signaled that regardless of local laws, people connected to file-sharing sites have become a global target.
“It’s turning into a witch hunt. It is worrying,” said the admin.
The thoughts of this admin are shared by one of the owners of another major torrent site, who told TorrentFreak in private that shutting down has crossed his mind on several occasions.
Things have become more and more complicated in recent weeks. Even those who are as cooperative as possible with copyright holders, by swiftly responding to DMCA takedown requests for example, can’t be entirely sure that they won’t become the next target.
On the other side, however, there are also those who continue undeterred, such as isoHunt.com owner Gary Fung, who is battling in court with the music and movie industries.
“After 6 years of 2 civil lawsuits with MPAA and CRIA, we are still here. None of these events is really new to us. From Lokitorrent to Suprnova, we’ve seen sites we index come and go. And as long as the Free Internet exists, sharing will endure. As will isoHunt,” he says.
Ironically enough, isoHunt’s ongoing legal battle might be what keeps Fung relatively safe. If the authorities planned to launch a criminal investigation against a torrent site it would be strange to pick one that is already involved in a civil lawsuit with a copyright holder.
Besides not being worried about the future, isoHunt’s owner is going on the offensive and is urging the entertainment industries to embrace technology, instead if fighting it.
“Perhaps more than ever, I wish the content industries will wake up to the fact you can’t fight technological progress, that battles maybe won, the war is already lost. Unless Content really starts working with technology to accelerate spread of culture, as the Internet has naturalized it. And make more money than ever in the process,” Fung says.
“Because so-called piracy enabled by the Internet and media consumption is not a zero-sum game, a download does not equal a lost sale, and what pirates really want is not necessarily free as in beer, but free as in speech and convenience.”
isoHunt’s determination to continue operating is shared by Extratorrent‘s admin Sam, whose site became the 5th largest torrent site after BTjunkie folded.
“What happened with MegaUpload is not at all good for the torrent world, but I would say it is impossible to stop the unstoppable. After all, if one site is shut down, a hundred new sites will open,” Sam told TorrentFreak, adding, “We have no plans to shut down,we will continue running as usual.”
Another site that’s not going anywhere is The Pirate Bay, the largest torrent site of all. Although its founders are now very close to serving jail time, the site itself will remain online. In the coming weeks The Pirate Bay will replace .torrent files with magnet links, which makes the site more portable and resilient.
The above shows that the end of BitTorrent is not near, but it’s hard to ignore the changing climate. People who previously saw no problems with running a torrent site are now reconsidering their position. The exact fallout, and whether there will be any newcomers to fill the gaping hole BTjunkie left, will become apparent in the coming months.