Hundreds of torrent sites, private BitTorrent trackers in particular, allow their users to donate money in exchange for extra features. In part, the site owners use this money to keep their sites afloat, but if it’s up to anti-piracy watchdog BREIN, this type of funding will become their downfall.
Earlier this month BREIN announced that it would query payment providers such as PayPal for the personal information of account holders connected to ‘illegal’ sites. BREIN threatened to take these payment providers to court if they refused to cooperate, and it now appears that they were serious.
BREIN contacted a currently unnamed payment provider for the name and address of a torrent site owner who accepted donations. Initially the company declined to cooperate, but when BREIN scheduled a court case to obtain a preliminary injunction, the payment provider eventually caved in.
In the past BREIN succeeded in obtaining the personal details of torrent site owners from hosting providers, but since these are not always accurate his outfit is always looking for additional options. Going after payment providers seems to be their next logical step.
“The name and address information that illegal sites give to hosting providers are mostly false, but luckily financial service providers are required to verify the identity of their customers,” BREIN director Tim Kuik said in a comment. “This gives us the ability to still find out the identity of managers of sites that earn money from their illegal activities.”
Although there are various concerns about this process from a privacy point of view, it appears that BREIN’s request could fall within the boundaries of the law. Arnoud Engelfriet, lawyer with the Ictrecht law firm, explains that service providers may have little option than to cooperate.
“Dutch case law (in particular the Pessers/Lycos case) has held that in certain cases internet providers and other intermediaries are indeed required to hand over identifying information if a customer is likely committing a tort. A court intervention is not necessary according to our High Court,” he previously told TorrentFreak.
“The legal requirements are that it is without serious doubt that this customer is committing the tort, that releasing the identifying information is relevant for the case *and* that an evaluation of customer privacy versus the interests of the third party reveals ultimately that privacy must give way to those interests.”
In this particular case the payment provider was convinced that the actions of the torrent site were severe enough to give up the private information. One has to question though if the ‘evidence’ presented by a party that has a clear stake in a dispute will be objective.
TorrentFreak asked BREIN director Tim Kuik whether he could provide more information regarding the nature of the torrent site they went after, but Kuik declined to release any additional information at this point.
What BREIN plans to do with the information they received from the payment provider is not clear either. The anti-piracy outfit has obtained this type of information from hosting companies in the past, but we’re not aware of any legal action that was taken against these torrent site owners.
For now, however, BREIN is free to contact payment providers with further requests, which they have already indicated is their intention.