The Zer0day platform, which hosts no torrents, is a tracker in the purest sense, directing traffic between peers, no matter what content is involved and no matter where people are in the world.
With this type of tracker in short supply, it was soon utilized by The Pirate Bay and the now-defunct ExtraTorrent. By August 2016, it was tracking almost four million peers and a million torrents, a considerable contribution to the BitTorrent ecosystem.
After handling many ups and downs associated with a service of this type, the tracker eventually made it to the end of 2016 intact. This year it grew further still and by the end of September was tracking an impressive 5.5 million peers spread over 1.2 million torrents. Soon after, however, the tracker disappeared from the Internet without warning.
In an effort to find out what had happened, TorrentFreak contacted Zer0day’s operator who told us a familiar story. Without any warning at all, the site’s host pulled the plug on the service, despite having been paid 180 euros for hosting just a week earlier.
“We’re hereby informing you of the termination of your dedicated server due to a breach of our terms of service,” the host informed Zer0day.
“Hosting trackers on our servers that distribute infringing and copyrighted content is prohibited. This server was found to distribute such content. Should we identify additional similar activity in your services, we will be forced to close your account.”
While hosts tend not to worry too much about what their customers are doing, this one had just received a particularly lengthy complaint. Sent by the head of anti-piracy at French collecting society SCPP, it laid out the group’s problems with the Zer0day tracker.
“SCPP has been responsible for the collective management and protection of sound recordings and music videos producers’ rights since 1985. SCPP counts more than 2,600 members including the majority of independent French producers, in addition to independent European producers, and the major international companies: Sony, Universal and Warner,” the complaints reads.
“SCPP administers a catalog of 7,200,000 sound tracks and 77,000 music videos. SCPP is empowered by its members to take legal action in order to put an end to any infringements of the producers’ rights set out in Article L335-4 of the French Intellectual Property Code…..punishable by a three-year prison sentence or a fine of €300,000.”
Noting that it works on behalf of a number of labels and distributors including BMG, Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner Music and others, SCPP listed countless dozens of albums under its protection, each allegedly tracked by the Zer0day platform.
“It has come to our attention that these music albums are illegally being communicated to the public (made available for download) by various users of the BitTorrent-Network,” the complaint reads.
Noting that Zer0day is involved in the process, the anti-piracy outfit presented dozens of hash codes relating to protected works, demanding that the site stop facilitation of infringement on each and every one of them.
“We have proof that your tracker udp://tracker.zer0day.to:1337/announce provided peers of the BitTorrent-Network with information regarding these torrents, to be specific IP Addresses of peers that were offering without authorization the full albums for download, and that this information enabled peers to download files that contain the sound recordings to which our members producers have the exclusive rights.
“These sound recordings are thus being illegally communicated to the public, and your tracker is enabling the seeders to do so.”
Rather than take the hashes down from the tracker, SCPP actually demanded that Zer0day create a permanent blacklist within 24 hours, to ensure the corresponding torrents wouldn’t be tracked again.
“You should understand that this letter constitutes a notice to you that you may be liable for the infringing activity occurring on your service. In addition, if you ignore this notice, you may also be liable for any resulting infringement,” the complaint added.
But despite all the threats, SCPP didn’t receive the response they’d demanded since the operator of the site refused to take any action.
“Obviously, ‘info hashes’ are not copyrightable nor point to specific copyrighted content, or even have any meaning. Further, I cannot verify that request strings parameters (‘info hashes’) you sent me contain copyrighted material,” he told SCPP.
“Like the website says; for content removal kindly ask the indexing site to remove the listing and the .torrent file. Also, tracker software does not have an option to block request strings parameters (‘info hashes’).”
The net effect of non-compliance with SCPP was fairly dramatic and swift. Zer0day’s host took down the whole tracker instead and currently it remains offline. Whether it reappears depends on the site’s operator finding a suitable web host, but at the moment he says he has no idea where one will appear from.
“Currently I’m searching for some virtual private server as a temporary home for the tracker,” he concludes.
As mentioned in an earlier article detailing the problems sites like Zer0day.to face, trackers aren’t absolutely essential for the functioning of BitTorrent transfers. Nevertheless, their existence certainly improves matters for file-sharers so when they go down, millions can be affected.