Back in April, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN obtained ex parte court orders (defendants didn’t appear) against members of a piracy release group.
Known online as ‘Dutch Release Team’, the group specialized in making available subtitled films and TV shows. In their absence the courts ordered three leaders of the group to stop their infringement or face the consequences – a fine of 2,000 euros per day or 2,000 euros per infringing upload, to a maximum fine of 50,000 euros.
According to BREIN the group members not only moderated their own website where they uploaded their latest releases, they were also involved in uploading content to torrent sites including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents.
In the wake of the April rulings it now appears that the trio have come to a settlement agreement with BREIN. Not only have they removed their torrents from KickassTorrents and agreed to pay a cash settlement, they have also promised to hand over information about other group members to BREIN.
While it’s unclear what details have been handed over, it’s fairly unusual for ‘snitching’ to be publicly revealed as part of a piracy settlement deal. It’s not unheard of (it happened in the United States last year) but it certainly piqued our interest. Is this a common thing for BREIN?
“The bulk of what – and who – we get is a result of our own investigations, but it is true that once we have identified an offender we are interested to hear about accomplices,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.
Interestingly, the anti-piracy boss also implies that those looking for an easier ride could get more favorable settlement terms if the information they hand over to BREIN proves to be of value.
“Depending on circumstances, useful information may be reflected in the terms of settlement,” Kuik explains.
But it’s not only those looking to get themselves out of trouble who pass information to the anti-piracy group. In some cases the tip-offs come from rivals in the piracy scene.
“Also we do get anonymous tips regarding offenders and from time to time it is clear that a tip comes from a ‘competitor’,” Kuik says. “It’s just like with other crime on any turf.”
While instances of ‘snitching’ are most certainly under publicized, some anti-piracy groups thrive on this kind of intelligence gathering. The UK’s Federation Against Software Theft runs a so-called “grass hotline” where people can inform on companies for using under licensed software.
FAST rely on two human traits to gather information on targets – greed (informants get paid) and a desire for revenge. According to FAST, many of their snitches are ex-employees with a grudge against their former bosses.
There can little doubt that snitching on fellow Internet users is frowned upon by many file-sharers but at the same time intense pressure from copyright holders and threats of punishing legal action have the ability to force most hands. It’s an intelligence conduit that will always remain useful to groups like BREIN, even if most cases aren’t made public.