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Shuttered BitTorrent tracker sued back to the stone age

A federal judge court inflicted $110 million in penalties on shuttered BitTorrent tracker TorrentSpy.com, after the site defaulted on a court request to produce logs of its users’ activity.

The MPAA accused TorrentSpy of copyright infringement in early 2006.

The $110 million figure, one of the largest judgments ever entered for copyright infringement, was calculated by multiplying the site’s 3,669 “shown” infringements by $30,000, which is the maximum penalty available under certain conditions in the Copyright Act. U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper entered her ruling against the site and its parent company, Valence Media, for willfully and vicariously contributing to the infringement of copyrighted materials.

“This substantial money judgment sends a strong message about the illegality of these sites,” said MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman. “The demise of TorrentSpy is a clear victory for the studios.”

It remains unclear as to whether or not the MPAA will be able to collect the $110 million: Valence Media announced that it will appeal the judgment, and court records indicate that owners Justin Bunnell and Wes Parker have filed for bankruptcy.

Before the site closed its doors last March, TorrentSpy held a legal drama with the MPAA filled with twists and turns: in addition to being unable to procure server logs necessary to the case – which Cooper, frustrated with the site’s antics, called “obstreperous” – the site blocked U.S. users last August, due to the fact that court-ordered monitoring conflicted with the site’s privacy policy. Earlier, MPAA investigators paid $15,000 to hacker Robert Anderson, a former associate and advertising partner of the site, in exchange for a large cache of TorrentSpy’s e-mail and internal data.

TorrentSpy attorney Ira Rothken argued that TorrentSpy was no more liable for copyright infringement than any other search engine, as the site merely indexed torrent files and not the infringed data itself.

“The case was not decided on the merits of copyright issues whatsoever,” said Rothken, who noted that privacy differences between the United States and Europe – TorrentSpy’s servers were hosted in the Netherlands – prevented the case from going to trial.

“If an author wrote a book on where to find things and someone went after them, would freedom of speech trump copyright authority? Are you still allowed to run a search engine when there are a lot of bad torrent files? These are issues we should have gotten to in the case.”





"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki













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