Three days ago, 13 German nationals were arrested in an operation carried out against movie and TV show links site Kino.to.
The raids, which involved 250 police and other authorities tackling 42 locations in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands, followed an intensive investigation carried out by the Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group GVU.
The main suspect is said to have been detained in Leipzig and another arrestee in Spain. One individual is still at large (possibly the admin of cyberlocker service, unconfirmed) and another has since been released. As of Thursday evening, reports suggested the rest remained in custody.
As we are aware, Kino.to hosted no illegal content, but indexed material and provided links to movies and TV shows stored on file-hosters and other streaming services.
Crucially, those links have to be put there by someone and that task fell to Kino.to’s loose-knit team of link uploaders. In the wake of the site’s demise, one of them has just broken ranks and given an interesting interview on how parts of the site operated.
Speaking under the assumed name John Sandy, the uploader said that he regularly supplied Kino.to with links to documentaries and US TV shows, the most-viewed content on the site.
The links offered by Sandy were submitted to a hidden area of the site and were subsequently moderated, probably for duplicates and quality. Whether this process was carried out by man or machine, Sandy isn’t sure. Successful links went on to make it to the site’s public facing webpage for regular users to access.
Sandy says that he had no contact with the site’s operators and there was no direct financial reward for uploading TV show links to Kino.to. However, Sandy said that there is money in uploading content to file-hosters and he had made around $1,000 per month by generating traffic to these sites.
“I don’t see myself as a criminal,” Sandy explained. “If America can watch these series episodes for free and legally, why should this be not allowed in Germany?”
While GVU and Hollywood won’t be pleased that US TV shows were available via links on Kino.to, it’s fair to say that the addition of hundreds, maybe thousands of movies proved even less popular. The sheer size of the site and its prominence meant that it was just a matter of time before it became a target.
However, while all of the publicity has been focused on the takedown of Kino.to, either by design or huge coincidence at least four German-hosted storage sites – Duckload.com, Frog Movz, Karamba Vidz and Loombo – all suddenly disappeared after the raid.
TorrentFreak is informed that the admin of Duckload was one of the individuals sought by the police and that their operation – which is believed to be around 500 servers – was completely shutdown. Initially the feeling was that Duckload would come back online but the seriousness of the situation appears to be hitting home and now a return seems unlikely, at least at this stage.
Several other hosters in a range of locations are also down. They include archiv.to, quickload.to, tubeload.to and loaded.it. Whether not they were connected to Kino.to, or the indeed the raids, remains to be seen. Another cyberlocker – Freeload.to – was definitely connected since it’s now displaying the same shutdown notice as Kino.to.
But these sites aren’t the only ones connected to the operation which had their services disrupted this week. The website of GVU, the anti-piracy brains behind the Kino.to takedown, was also taken offline following a DDoS attack carried out by Anonymous.
German members of the group put up a video on YouTube describing the attack and according to a translation by Janko Roettgers, they declared the following:
“We believe that running a search engine for videos isn’t illegal… That’s why we immediately reacted by taking down the GVU website… Knowledge is free, and streaming is, too.”
The DDoS attack itself had limited effect and the GVU site is now fully operational, which is more than can be said for Kino.to and several file-hosting services. Nevertheless, rumors of a Kino.to resurrection from an old site backup are circulating. Stranger things have happened but that would be a particularly brave move, especially in Europe.