A few days ago the owners of BitTorrent’s largest torrent indexer announced that they would start experimenting with a new content removal tool that enables copyright holders to easily remove and ban torrents from the site. The system seems to be pretty effective, as searches for TV-shows such as Lost, Heroes and Prison Break only return a handful of results, and not even those you’d expect.
Mininova lost most Prison Break torrents
Those who try to upload a ‘possibly infringing’ torrent to Mininova get the following message; “Your torrent has been uploaded successfully. It will not appear immediately on the site, as the content will be downloaded first by a third party to check for infringing content. If the content is found to be non-infringing, the torrent will be posted on the site right away.”
Mininova has announced that they are currently testing the removal system with only a few titles, among these are most of the torrents uploaded by the popular scene and release groups. It looks like the removal system checks the info hashes to see if the torrents are on the ban list. If this is indeed the case, the easiest way to get around the filter would be to modify the torrent by adding a small file to the original release and create a new torrent. This new torrent will have an unique info hash and will be accepted by Mininova, until it is blacklisted of course.
This could be the death of scene releases and torrents from popular release groups, since these will be the prime targets of the copyright holders simply because they are downloaded more often than others. This will mean that more exotic and home brewed torrents could remain on Mininova, and will likely be incompatible with the popular releases offered elsewhere, resulting in smaller swarm sizes for Mininova users.
One of the TV release groups that has seen most of its torrents banned from Mininova is EZTV. However, NovaKing, one of the admins at EZTV, is sympathetic towards Mininova, despite the filter. “I can understand why Mininova is going down this path. It is wiser for them to push the initiative and show the content distributors that they are not the bad guys instead of being forced by a judge to more than likely do the same thing in their upcoming court case,” he told us.
“We are not sure how much this affects the TV shows that we release as the filter has only been in effect for a short period of time. But to cater for the users out there that do not know we actually have our own website and only get their shows via Mininova, we have changed how we post our torrents to Mininova,” NovaKing added.
Since Mininova’s content removal tool checks for the info hash of the torrent, they circumvent the system by linking to the ‘infringing’ torrents indirectly. “Now when you see a show from us it will contain a text file which contains a link to a valid torrent file, this will keep us from being filtered as the torrent we post does not contain any copyrighted content.” Of course, the latest torrents and news about EZTV are also posted on Twitter, EZTV’s own website and on many other torrent sites.
Only time will tell how effective the removal system will be, and whether the Mininova team will continue to use it in the future. It is likely that it is a compromise that they were forced to make, as a sign of goodwill towards the copyright holders who they are set to face in court next week. If successful, this test case might be used to pressure other torrent site owners to do the same. We hope, however, that the copyright holders will invest their time and money in serving their customers instead. Opening Hulu up to everyone outside the US might be a good start. Or they perhaps they could license content to Mininova.