Several Piracy-Related Arrests Spark Fears of High-Level Crackdown

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A series of arrests that began in late August and continued into last week has sparked concerns that a relatively rare 'Scene' crackdown targeting the top of the so-called 'Piracy Pyramid' may be underway in the Nordic region. A long-running investigation involving Denmark's Special Crime Unit appears to be the common denominator. Coincidentally, several groups have stopped releasing.

denmark-target-sOver the past few years, increased enforcement by players in both the private and public sectors has made Denmark one of the riskiest places in Europe for pirate site operators and prolific file-sharers.

Relentless pushback from local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance and its partnership with Denmark’s Special Crime Unit (National enhed for Særlig Kriminalitet (NSK)) has led to many site closures, arrests, and subsequent prosecutions.

The most recent reported conviction saw a 37-year-old man receive a 60-day suspended prison sentence in September for pirating more than a thousand works through local BitTorrent trackers.

In connection with this and other successes over the past few years, last month Rights Alliance revealed that Thomas Heldrup, the anti-piracy group’s Head of Content Protection & Enforcement, had been running an undercover operation in piracy circles since 2016.

Fears of Infiltration

Concerns that a site might have a spy on board certainly aren’t unusual; for many site operators, however, it’s the kind of thing that only ever happens to someone else, usually those perceived to be less careful than them. In some cases that might be true but
Denmark’s distinguishing features as a country may introduce complications.

A relatively small population and a language rarely spoken outside Denmark’s borders, presents an increased chance of local piracy communities overlapping. Combine that with a shared reliance on locally attractive content and one site’s security issues risk becoming a much broader problem, as the last couple of years appear to show.

Until recently, however, there were few signs to suggest those at the top of the so-called ‘Piracy Pyramid‘ may also have become targets in Denmark. Nevertheless, some of those with connections to Scene entities are starting to ask questions.

47-Year-Old Arrested in Denmark

In a statement last week, Denmark’s National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) announced that as part of a long-running investigation, a man was arrested on November 22 and then charged with copyright infringement offenses.

NSK said its officers searched the home of a 47-year-old man in South Zealand (Sydsjælland) and seized IT equipment in connection with illegal file-sharing and “copyright infringement of a particularly serious nature.”

“The case is about an organized network that has illegally shared extremely large quantities of films and TV series via file sharing services,” said NSK Police Commissioner Anders-Emil Nøhr Kelbæk.

While noting that NSK had no further information to offer at this time, Kelbæk said he was pleased that NSK had arrested another suspect believed to have played a ‘significant role’ in the unnamed network.

At Least Five Arrests Thus Far

Last week’s arrest was only the latest in a series of arrests carried out as part of the same long-running NSK investigation into the illegal distribution of movies and TV shows.

In late August, NSK arrested four people on suspicion of sharing “extremely large quantities” of movies and TV shows. NSK raided addresses in South-West Jutland, North Zealand and Bornholmand. A 43-year old was arrested at the last location, but it’s claimed he lives elsewhere. In common with last week’s arrest, all were charged on suspicion of “particularly serious” copyright infringement offenses.

In an almost identical statement to that issued last week, Commissioner Anders-Emil Nøhr Kelbæk said the case was about “an organized network that shares extremely large amounts of data, presumably in the form of films and series.”

Does Available Information Really Indicate a ‘Scene’ Bust?

TorrentFreak sources report concerns that last week’s arrest may be linked to Scene groups. Terminology used by NSK doesn’t instantly rule that out and does seem to suggest something potentially more significant than other arrests over the past few years.

According to NSK, the August arrests took place on August 28, 2023. Using information in Scene release databases we looked for Danish Scene groups and/or groups that were releasing Denmark-focused content before that date but then made no releases afterward; while that wouldn’t provide conclusive proof that a group had been targeted, the method has proven useful in the past. Findings as follows:

⦿ Nordic blu-ray release group (including Danish) paused Aug 13, restarted Oct 16. Nothing since
⦿ TV show release group paused Aug 28 to Sep 1 but continued as normal
⦿ At least one TV show group made dozens of releases on Aug 28 suggesting little ‘panic’ on that date

While activity late August suggests nothing especially out of the ordinary, activity since the arrest last week stands in contrast.

Notable Danish content release group inactivity since November 22 arrest as follows:

⦿ ‘HYGGE’ | TV shows | 550+ releases since March 23 | Last release Nov 23, 2023 07:43:39
⦿ ‘HiVE’ | TV shows | 650+ releases since March 23 | Last release Nov 23, 2023 05:03:52
⦿ ‘DKiDS’ | TV shows | 3000+ release since March 23 | Last release Nov 21, 2023 10:34:50
⦿ ‘DANES’ | TV shows | 640+ releases since May 23 | Last release Nov 22, 2023 08:13:21
⦿ ‘JYSK’ | TV shows | 520+ releases since March 23 | Last release Nov 23, 2023 08:20:39

TF is informed that some groups may have gone dark simply out of an abundance of caution. That may or may not include all or none of the above. It’s also possible that the groups have nothing to release. Furthermore, there are many other global groups with no obvious links to Danish content or Denmark that also stopped releasing on November 21. The reasons for this are unknown but holidays in the United States may play a role.

In an information vacuum, rumors are extremely common but if the authorities and/or Rights Alliance used intelligence obtained in other operations to infiltrate Scene groups or their affiliates, it wouldn’t be a surprise. It wouldn’t be surprise to hear that any group downtime was directly linked to turkey and/or alcohol consumption either but in any event, the next couple of weeks should prove informative.


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