Police Declare War on BitTorrent Sites, Operators and Users

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Following the domain seizure of Russia's biggest torrent site, Torrents.ru, Moscow's Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced it will not only start shutting down BitTorrent sites and pursuing their operators, but also hold users responsible. One proposal suggests that file-sharers should be treated the same as criminal counterfeiters.

Last month RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar and web-hosting provider, was forced to shut down the domain of Torrents.ru, the country’s biggest torrent site with around 4 million users.

The grounds for the seizure was a breach of Article 146 of the Criminal Code – “Illegal use of objects of copyright or related rights, as well as acquisition, storage, transportation of counterfeit copies of works or phonograms for sale, committed on a large scale”.

Torrents.ru was quickly restored with a new domain, RUtracker, but this fight back has only spurred the authorities on to take even more aggressive action.

“The police will take action to stop the operation of file-sharing sites like torrents.ru and will fight with their creators,” said Economic Security deputy chief Lt. Gen. Victor Vasilyev from Moscow’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Our task is to stop those sites’ owners activities,” he told a press conference.

The existence of file-sharing networks is causing considerable damage to copyright holders, said Vasilyev, although he admitted that thus far the police campaign against them has returned limited success.

Vasilyev noted that many sites (including RUTracker) are registered outside the .RU domain which makes them more difficult to deal with. “But even if they are registered in the Russian Federation it is often really hard to establish the identity of the owner and make them liable,” he added.

Dreamtorrent Corp spokesperson (the creator of torrents.ru) Alexander Volkov believes that the police fight should work against the exchange of pirate material, not BitTorrent trackers. Volkov said this would avoid the risk of limiting users’ ability to share information which could constitute an encroachment on civil rights.

“If we are talking about limiting pirated materials, then authorities already do what they can,” Volkov added.

Nevertheless, it seems the police are already looking at this problem from two directions. Citing developments in Europe, the authorities believe that going after sites and holding users of those sites responsible for their actions is the way forward.

Nikolay Nazimok, head of Moscow police’s Economic Crime Department, says that since users of file-sharing networks like BitTorrent not only download but upload too, they effectively become part of a distribution network for counterfeit goods.

“The problem of file-sharing networks is becoming very acute,” Nazimok told a press conference yesterday. “They are a dangerous web that form a network of networks. By downloading movies from the resource, you become distributors of these products to other users,” he added.

Nazimok has proposed that illegal file-sharers should be treated in the same way as criminal counterfeiters.


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