A Sinking Ship?

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If you head over to this BitTorrent site, you will find out that it is now an ex-Bit Torrent site:


This in-and-of-itself is not unusual.

What is unusual is that the owner of the site (after making much hullaballoo about standing up to the MPAA and asking for contributions to fund the legal expenses), apparently settled with the MPAA for a million dollars in damages plus handing over all logs and records associated with the activity.

The best news article so far on the matter can be found here:

The major Hollywood studios have drawn their first blood in court against a popular new type of online piracy, obtaining a $1-million judgment against a website that steered people to downloadable copies of bootlegged movies.

Edward Webber, operator of LokiTorrent.com, agreed not only to pay the damages to studios and shut down his site, but also to give the Motion Picture Assn. of America voluminous records his site has collected over the last two years.

The article goes on to quote Mr. Webber’s attorney, who for all practical purposes said that Mr. Webber couldn’t pay him enough to defend him, which is quite believable for this kind of lawsuit (more on this below).

This means that if you signed up with LokiTorrent, the MPAA knows about it. How serious is this? Well, if you’re a registered LokiTorrent user, don’t be surprised if you see a letter or email from the MPAA or movie company one day soon, just something to let you know they know where you are and where you live.

If you uploaded movies, you may well get more than that.

Not surprisingly, LokiTorrent users are not at all happy campers about this, as this one forum thread ripely demonstrates.

Just a few random thoughts about some of the thoughts and sentiments expressed there:

For some strange reason, some people think the MPAA had to buy the lokitorrent.com website in order to put up their little notice. Well, there is a strange reason to think that, about a week ago, the gentleman put the site up for sale somewhere.

Believe me, the MPAA didn’t pay this guy anything. Any value established by the offer to sell was probably used as part of the calculation of the million-dollar settlement, as in something like “of the million dollars, $X represents the website and records being turned over.”

Second, whatever contributions were made to pay legal expenses no doubt went to the lawyer. Figures of $30K a month were being used, so $40K would just about cover around a month and a half of legal representation. Believe me, the guy just didn’t abscond with the money, if he did, his lawyer would be chasing after him harder than anyone else. 🙂

I don’t know for sure, but if I had to bet on what actually happened, I would say that the guy initially wanted to fight, but couldn’t come up with the wherewithall to pay that 30K a month. The MPAA likely said to him, “Settle for a million, and if you include all the records along with your website, we’ll value that as being worth close to a million, so you won’t be too much out of pocket, and we’ll get a lot of very valuable leads.”

Nor would I be surprised if pushing/not pushing criminal prosecution were part of the deal, too.

Finally, all that violence or even killing will get you should the law come looking for you is a jail cell (and perhaps a greatly intensified sex life) at best, or death and a Darwin Award nomination at worst. Is your life really not worth more than a song?

More Like Napster Than Grokster

What you need to understand about these BitTorrent sites is that they’re more like the original Napster than P2P entities like Grokster, which means they can be charged with copyright infringement and shut down.

The reason is such sites provide a service on top of just providing software. They have to get involved in the process, or nothing happens. That means every BitTorrent site which operates that way can be shut down a la Napster.

The LokiTorrent case indicates what is likely to happen in any other BT case. This is a slam-dunk case in court based on the Napster case. The MPAA is going to demand the records as part of any settlement. If somebody refuses to do that, they’ll just go to court and end up with a court order for it.

Destroy the evidence? That’s called obstruction of justice, that’s a criminal offense on both the state and Federal level, and that gets you serious jail time.

If you think somebody’s going to do that for you rather than save himself by turning over evidence, well, you’re a damn fool.

So, you see, using something like BitTorrent is a lot more likely to get you into trouble than plain vanilla P2Ping.

The wise (well, at least the less-foolish) will respond accordingly.



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