TorrentSpy, One Year After the Shutdown

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Exactly a year ago one of the largest torrent sites shut down for good, and a month later the owner was ordered to pay a 110 million dollar fine. We catch up with TorrentSpy owner Justin Bunnell, who’s still in court fighting the MPAA, to see how he views the developments of the past year.

torrentspyOnly two years ago, TorrentSpy was the largest BitTorrent site on the Internet, competing with Mininova and The Pirate Bay. Its future was uncertain though, as the site found itself embroiled in a costly legal battle with the MPAA.

The case was initiated in January 2006 and in the summer of 2007 a federal judge ordered TorrentSpy to start logging all user data. The judge ruled that TorrentSpy had to monitor its users in order to create detailed logs of their activities and these were to be handed over to the MPAA. In a response to this decision, TorrentSpy decided to block access to all US visitors instead.

The trouble for the torrent site was not over though. On March 24 2008 the site went offline and a month later TorrentSpy’s owner was ordered to pay a $110 million fine after the court terminated the case. This decision is currently under appeal.

Today marks the passing of a year since the site’s closure, so TorrentFreak took the opportunity to catch up with TorrentSpy owner Justin Bunnell to see where he stands 12 months on. We began by asking him whether he believes he made the right decision when he took the site offline.

“Most decisions you can review with hindsight and decide if it was good or bad. However, this is one that I still question even today,” Justin told us. “We took the site offline to show we were serious about settlement – we figured if they hated the site and therefore us, taking the site down would make them happy.”

However, the MPAA didn’t back off, quite the opposite. “Their bewildering reaction was to get angry instead. In short, we took the site down so it would stop being such a contentious issue with the courts and I would probably make the same decision today,” Justin said.

Although the site has ceased to exist, together with one of the largest BitTorrent communities, Justin is still dealing with the TorrentSpy legacy in court.

When we asked him what he missed the most, Justin said he didn’t “miss out” on any of the downside fun. “It is sad that a vibrant community that shared ideas and opinions about technology, politics, society and other speech has been obliterated, but the sad fact is that Goliath wins most of the time,” he told.

“I have become cynical about the fairness and standard of justice in our courts and political process,” Justin said commenting on the legal proceedings involving his site, and the future of file sharing in general. “I see very little opposition to more and more restrictions on the actions and speech of the Public to ‘protect’ the entertainment industry, especially now.”

A handful of torrent sites that are willing to stand up in court are no match for the powerful lobby of the entertainment industry according to Justin. “Money is the gas of the political engine and in 2008 alone the entertainment industry gave $47M to politicians. What do you think these profit obsessed corporations expect in return?”

It is indeed sad to see that lobbyists have manage to influence lawmakers into some of the most idiotic decisions. Change has not come yet for P2P apparently. We wish Justin all the best, and hope that his appeal is a success.


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