Speaking with TorrentFreak in July 2012, Australian adult industry businessman Robert King outlined a mission he’d initiated a few weeks earlier.
“What I hope to achieve is very simple. I want to tear apart the illegal file locker industry by removing its supply of funds and then ultimately removing its supply of network connectivity,” King explained.
Over the months that followed King kept up the pressure. With a team of people (he has never revealed its exact size or membership), King sought out infringing files on hosting sites and used their existence to build up a picture that sites were acting illegally.
Then, using contacts he had built in the payment processing sector, AdultKing (as King is known online) began to hit file-hosting sites in the pocket by reporting them to the likes of PayPal, Visa, Mastercard and a variety of intermediate processors. The aim: to cut sites off from their cash.
For some sites the results were extremely problematic. With no options to process payments, file-hosting sites were not only unable to accept money for user subscriptions, but also had problems sending money out, meaning that server bills went unpaid. Worse still, some who had problems with PayPal due to King’s work found their funds frozen for six months, a situation that proved terminal for some fringe players.
Some 90 days into the StopFileLockers campaign, King said he had played a part in 194 sites having their payments interrupted and the total shutdown of 54 others.
There can be little doubt that among King’s targets were sites designed from the ground up to profit from infringing content and for this he gained both moral and financial support from his industry peers. However, in January 2013 King began attacking the payment processing abilities of Kim Dotcom’s brand new Mega.co.nz, the most-scrutinized file-hosting startup in tech history.
There was no way that Mega would do anything to break the law, yet King was determined to harass the company. He failed, Mega continued to grow, and the moral high-ground of the StopFileLockers campaign had been damaged by going after a law-abiding company going about its 100% legitimate business.
In the months that followed King continued his work, although with less fanfare than in the early days. However, a lowered profile did nothing to improve his standing in file-sharing circles. King is almost certainly the most-hated man in the file-hosting business today, which some will attribute to his successes over the past 15 months.
King himself believes that his contribution has been significant, with the suggestion that the StopFileLockers campaign has played a part in the shutdown of hundreds of piracy-related sites and the closure of thousands of PayPal, Payza, Moneybookers and other payment processing options. No official stats or reports are available but it’s safe to say that the project has been a considerable nuisance to the file-hosting market.
However, it’s now clear that King’s work is on the brink. Despite initial enthusiasm and support (including hard cash from industry giant Manwin), interest in the project has waned considerably. In an update to adult industry platform GFY, King announced today that StopFileLockers has run out of money and resources and will shut down this week.
“Unfortunately at the end of September we finally ran out of funds and the resources just don’t exist to keep this effort going any longer. In fact, we now face a deficit in the vicinity of $15,000,” King said.
“Unless a source of funding is found, all operational aspects of the Stop File Lockers project and Copy Control will cease at midnight on Friday 4th October (AEST). I would like to thank every person, company and organization that has provided support (financial and otherwise) to the project.”
So what now for AdultKing? More anti-piracy work, or an unlikely change of sides perhaps?
“Overnight one of the largest remaining file lockers offered me $XXX,XXX a year to come on board as a consultant and help them become compliant and get their PayPal account back,” King revealed in September.
“I told them to get fucked.”
In the absence of any figures to show success or failure it is very difficult to assess the real-world achievements of the campaign, at least as far as it may or may not have boosted sales of official content. However, King’s legacy may lie in a more significant area – adding momentum to the shifting of payment processor attitudes towards the file-sharing space.
“We have recast the way in which file lockers are viewed by many organizations,” King concludes.
Few will argue with that.
“More than one file locker operator has offered either incentive or threat to help them, or desist from working to mitigate their business model. There is no price at which a piracy outfit can obtain my services,” King informs TorrentFreak.
“At the conclusion of the Stop File Lockers project I shall be concentrating my efforts on my mainstream business interests which are not associated with either anti-piracy or the adult industry.”