While TorrentFreak tends to concentrate on the events surrounding the BitTorrent protocol, there are dozens of other ways to share files on the Internet.
One of those methods is known as Direct Connect, a hub-based ‘shared folder’ type system. Direct Connect hubs are more difficult to access than regular torrent sites but once in, users tend to share their entire collections, be they music or movie based. The index of all this material is shared between the users of the hub to show what is available and files can be accessed whenever the ‘owner’ of them is online. They can prove an absolute gold mine of data.
Unfortunately, as some users of Direct Connect in Sweden have discovered in recent months, proving large scale infringement against them is much easier than with BitTorrent. This has led to a number of arrests.
While Sweden has long been considered a relative hotbed for Direct Connect hubs, according to AIMR (Asociatia Industriei Muzicale din Romania) – Romania’s answer to the RIAA – their country is leading the world when it comes to Direct Connect.
According to information just released, this month parent group IFPI monitored a total of 913 active active hubs in Romania. In second place came Italy with 526, ahead of France, Russia, Hungary, Sweden, Finland and Poland. The United States came in at 10th place with just 143.
AIMR says that Romanian Direct Connect hubs have around 75,000 users at any one time, peaking to around 100,000 in the evenings and at the weekends. While these numbers may seems fairly low, the amounts being shared aren’t, with AIMR reporting that around 17,000 TB of data is being made available.
Since users generally only get hub access if they are prepared to offer media to the pool themselves, it means that nearly everyone is a significant provider of music and movies and therefore quite a big target for anti-piracy groups, especially when compared to BitTorrent users.
To this end, following an investigation in June, AIMR said it collected evidence against 40 ‘large scale’ users of Direct Connect hubs. In AIMR terms, this means people sharing more than 5,000 music tracks.
“In general, this means those who have shared more than 20 gigabytes of music, who have a constant presence online and are repeat users,” said AIMR’s Valeria Constantine in a statement.
“We identify them by IP address and then go to the police and each ISP to trace them to their homes. If it is proven that they uploaded music illegally then court proceedings can be initiated,” she added. “The whole process can take over a year.”
AIMR says it will send its evidence to the Fraud Investigation Service divisions of several police departments during July.
For those convicted of breaches of Art. 139, Legea Nr. 8/ 1996 (Article 139, Law no. 8 of 1996), there is a potential for harsh penalties – a maximum of 4 years in jail – but it’s unlikely anyone will be punished to that extent.
Last year saw the first case against a Romanian music file-sharer ending in the accused having to pay compensation of around $3,000 to AIMR. A second case this year ended in a similar manner.
AIMR hasn’t always successfully followed up on its anti-piracy warnings though. Following fears that The Pirate Bay might disappear after being bought by Hans Pandeya’s Global Gaming Factory, a complete copy of the site’s databases appeared online. BTArena created a clone of The Pirate Bay and was immediately threatened by AIMR with legal action. That site remains online today.