After gaining a warrant eleven days earlier, on Monday 27th July at 09:05 police backed up by the MPAA-funded UK anti-piracy group FACT conducted a raid on the home address of the owner of one of the most enduring torrent sites on the Internet.
Founded way back in 2003 – a light year in BitTorrent terms – UK based FileSoup is one of the original torrent sites and has built a solid reputation while keeping a surprisingly low profile, particularly considering its status. It has already outlived The Pirate Bay by around 9 months and is believed to be the oldest community still around today.
The search warrant for the owner of FileSoup was issued under Section 109 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and authorized the gathering of any evidence related to the illegal distribution or file-sharing of copyright films. Notably, since 2005 FileSoup hasn’t operated a tracker but links to metadata which links to material hosted elsewhere. It has never hosted any copyrighted content.
Known online as TheGeeker, the owner of FileSoup was arrested and taken to his local police station. The charge: Suspicion of downloading copyrighted movies. He told TorrentFreak that his site had been under FACT investigation since February this year.
“I asked them [police] while still at home if I could contact a member of my family so that someone could come and make sure my dog was catered for, they said that I couldn’t. On the way to the police station I asked if they could contact someone to take care of the dog or if I could make a phone call, they again said I could not,” he recalls.
But the police’s lack of sympathy for Geeker’s pet was just the start. He says that before being put in a cell he was given a ‘Notice Of Entitlements’ sheet, a document explaining how a prisoner should be cared for. One section explained:
Keeping in touch: As well as talking to a solicitor and having a person told about your arrest you will usually be allowed to make one phone call. Ask the police if you would like to make a phone call. You can also ask for a pen and paper. You may be able to have visitors but the custody officer can refuse to allow that.
But Geeker soon discovered that things were different in his case. “I asked again as I was put in the cell, if I could contact someone or make a phone call, I was told no I couldn’t do that, I asked why and was told that the Inspector had put a block on any and all communication from me to anyone.”
Each time an officer called on Geekers cell, he asked permission to let someone know of his arrest. He also asked to contact his lawyer. Seven and a half hours later and both were effectively still being denied.
Around 4:45pm a policeman appeared in Geeker’s cell with a 12 page list of items seized from his house, and demanded a signature that would indicate that the items were his. Of course, it was impossible to say if the items they had in custody were indeed the ones on the list, so Geeker declined and the policeman stormed out of the cell.
“What do they take me for, a complete idiot!” says Geeker. “No one in their right mind would have signed to say any of these items were their property, especially if they’d not been there when it was seized!”
At 5pm Geeker was finally allowed legal representation, where he questioned that surely “downloading” was a civil issue, not a criminal one. However, the movie industry anti-piracy group FACT are known to frame things differently. In previous cases they have insisted that donations are profit and therefore constitute a criminal copyright offense. It is probable they have done the same thing at FileSoup and this could be why Geeker was arrested and not sued.
Geeker then had an interview with two police officers which was recorded on a machine which malfunctioned throughout the interview. In common with other FACT-run cases, the nature of BitTorrent proved difficult for law enforcement to grasp, with Geeker having to explain how everything worked – including what URLs and domain names are.
Upon leaving, Geeker was informed that in common with other cases in the UK such as that against TV Links, the private anti-piracy group FACT was in charge of his seized property, not the police.
Geeker was eventually released on police bail a little after 19:30 with his offense listed as “Distribute Article Infringing Copyright”. He must return to the police station in October.
Geeker says his home was a mess. “I got back home just before 8pm to find my belongings had been turned upside down, the dining room was a like a whirlwind had gone through....they’d turfed out all the drawers of the desk, chucked back what was of no interest to them, left a pile of paperwork scattered across my desk and table with wires everywhere, talk about a nightmare!”
And Geeker’s dog was pretty upset too. “My dog was extremely traumatized, he’d been barking almost non-stop all day long the neighbour told my Dad when he went over at about 6:30pm to feed the dog as I hadn’t got back yet. My dog rarely barks at anything, now he barks at the least little thing, I am SO annoyed that they have done this to him!”
The FileSoup site remains open. Stay tuned.