Top BitTorrent Tracker Pressured to Ban Infringing Hashes

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Demonii, the largest standalone BitTorrent tracker on the Internet, has been forced to ban more than 10,000 'copyright-infringing' torrent hashes. The blocking measures follow pressure from a music industry lawfirm applied to both the tracker and its hosting company. The tracker disagrees with the "bullying" tactics being employed.

demoniiAt any given point in time, millions of people are sharing files via BitTorrent. The most used trackers process millions of requests per minute, serving between 15 and 30 million people at once.

Demonii is one of these top BitTorrent trackers. The standalone tracker offers no torrents but merely coordinates communication between people who share files via sites such as The Pirate Bay.

Technically speaking a tracker is similar to a DNS provider, it’s a ‘phone book’ which points people to content without knowing what it is. However, according to German lawfirm Rasch, trackers have a responsibility to block infringing hashes if they are asked to.

Earlier this year the lawfirm took action against the hosting companies of several standalone trackers after they failed to block “infringing” hashes. The operator of Demonii, currently the most used BitTorrent tracker, informed us that they were contacted too.

“First we received an email from Rasch asking us to remove about five torrent hashes for one music artist. Since the firm is merely an agent and not the actual copyright owner, I asked for proof that he is the lawful agent,” Demonii’s operator explains.

The lawfirm provided the requested paperwork and to avoid problems with the hosting company, Demonii blocked the five hashes. This was the first time that Demonii had ever blocked content, which is nothing more than filtering a piece of HEX string.

However, it soon became clear that Rasch was just getting started. In the weeks that followed the company filed complaints against 10,000 allegedly infringing hashes which pointed to content from various copyright holders.

Again, Demonii requested proof that the firms was acting as a lawful agent, but this time Rasch declined. Instead, Rasch lawyer Mirko Brüß told the operator that anyone can report copyright infringements.

“Anybody can notify you of an infringement, even if they are in no way affiliated with the rights owner. Please understand that we will not go above and beyond what is provided by the law in order to satisfy your personal requests,” Brüß wrote in an email.

“It is your decision to act upon the information sent to you. But with regards to blocking content wrongfully, the content owners could approach us with claims for damages for sending a false notice to you,” he added.

The Demonii operator disagrees with this assessment and calls out the claim as incorrect.

“If what he is saying is right, in theory, I can go send an email to his hosting provider to remove their site? After all I am not the owner and no way legally affiliated, but I can still claim the take down?! — No.. I can’t, and neither should he,” he tells TF.

However, with pressure shifting to the tracker’s hosting service (which had given the tracker 24 hours to comply), Demonii was eventually forced to block all reported hashes.

Describing the lawfirm’s tactics as “bullying”, the operator decided to move away from its hosting company to one that may be more resistant to this type of pressure.

“We have moved to a different hosting provider, one which we hope will take the matter more seriously and not just bend over backwards for any outrageous claim and takedown request where ownership can not be proven,” Demonii’s operator says.

The previous hash blocks have also been lifted, so Demonii is starting over fresh and uncensored again. The move hasn’t stopped the lawfirm from sending more blocking requests, but for the time being the tracker is opting to ignore these.

The tracker stresses that it respects copyright law. However, it will only respond to correct takedown notice and not to “bullying” tactics.

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