With more than 1,700,000 registered members, Smartorrent is undoubtedly the largest French torrent site on the Internet. Founded in 2005, the site still adds a further 2,500 members every day and pulls in well over 100,000 unique visitors during the same period.
Sites such as Smartorrent are generally loved by the public, but they are also a thorn in the side of the French Government. In an effort to curb the growing number of BitTorrent users, France introduced controversial anti-piracy legislation this year.
Under the Hadopi anti-piracy law, alleged file-sharers will monitored, their IP-addresses recorded, and account holders will receive warnings through their ISP. After three warnings, subscribers risk a fine and their Internet connection may even be terminated.
Despite these tough measures, the French don’t seem to be holding back on their download habits just yet. Smartorrent traffic remains steady and the site’s users are increasingly looking for options to hide their identities from the prying eyes of the government.
To accommodate this growing demand, Smartorrent launched their own VPN service a few week weeks ago. The service – fittingly named SmartVPN – is specifically aimed at heavy BitTorrent users and shields them from receiving warning letters. Since their real IP-address is not shown while sharing, they don’t risk having their Internet connection terminated.
“Since the adoption of this new HADOPI law we thought about starting a VPN service,” Smartorrent co-founder Clever told TorrentFreak. “We wanted to give our beloved users the ability to keep downloading safely by using our VPN servers that are located in Canada.”
Thus far SmartVPN has been an overwhelming success. Clever told TorrentFreak that nearly 2,500 Smartorrent users have already signed up since they started in September, and dozens of new accounts are being made each day. The torrent site run VPN, which costs 5 euros a month, ironically owes much of its success to France’s anti-piracy law.
Clever further said that he doesn’t understand why the French Government voted for the tougher laws, and calls them “insane”. “In my point of view, they have more important things to take care of in France than hunting downloaders, as every week there is a strike somewhere,” he added.
The success of SmartVPN follows the global trend where file-sharers increasingly use anonymizing services to avoid being spied on. The SmartVPN service is mainly targeted at French users, but for people from other countries there are plenty of alternatives to torrent anonymously.