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Alleged founder of world’s largest BitTorrent distribution site arrested (arstechnica.com)
378 points by fcambus on July 20, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 347 comments



ArsTechnica seems to have the most detailed and best linked (PDF + DoJ press release) article as of now:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/07/kickasstorrents-a...

Somewhat more/complementary details seem to be available on: https://torrentfreak.com/feds-seize-kickasstorrents-domains-... — e.g. regarding methods:

[...] The complaint further reveals that the feds posed as an advertiser, which revealed a bank account associated with the site.

It also shows that Apple handed over personal details of Vaulin after the investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to KAT’s Facebook account. [...]

Some aspects which seem interesting to me, from what is reported:

• that apparently KAT owner tried to shield off DMCA takedown requests (which I'd see as trying to affirm being legal);

• that according to the articles he seems to not have used Tor (or fumbled in it).

(Assuming no parallel construction and that he's actually the guy, etc. etc.)

EDIT: I couldn't really find any Polish sources — suppose because it's middle of the night here... (the single article — http://www.dobreprogramy.pl/Zalozyciel-Kickass-Torrents-zatr... — seems to be written based on the above English-language ones)


> investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to KAT’s Facebook account

The article implies that the investigator had a FB and iTunes IP address and THEN Apple gave the rest of the user's details but that doesn't really make sense.

I'm guessing that they gag-ordered and subpoenaed FB for account info, but how did the investigator get the iTunes transaction IP address prior to getting user details from Apple?

Edit:

I think the more likely scenario is that FB was forced to give up user details and the only valid info was the IP Address, and then Apple (and probably google etc.) was forced to search through their databases and produce any records related to the IP address in question.

Or maybe the USG has a database filled with iTunes transaction information -- I really wouldn't doubt this at all. I'm sure music is a partial indicator of "dissident" level in whatever algorithm is used to assist investigators.


The FBI found out his bank account information from buying ads. He probably bought something on iTunes and that would be sufficient for Apple to be given a search warrant for any data related to x IP address, billing info, email address, or name. Any identifying details they collected at that point.

Not hard to connect the pieces once you have a money trail. That's an investigative gold mine.


> The FBI found out his bank account information from buying ads. He probably bought something on iTunes

This actually sounds the most believable to me, excellent point.


My guess would be they got the IP address from Facebook and looked that up in a database that shows all connections made by an IP address, then noticed one of the connections was to Apple and based on that got Apple to reveal the user behind it. I doubt Apple would cooperate willingly with dragnet-style inquiries.


Ok, we changed the URL to that from http://bnonews.com/news/index.php/news/id4926. If there's a more substantive source, we can change it again.


Should have used bitcoin :(


Wouldn't help much once the bitcoin is exchanged for another currency, thus linking the bitcoin address to his personal information if the authorities compel the exchange to provide the info.


There are ways to "launder" the payments. Could use JoinMarket to tumble the funds to a decent extent.

Could also send the BTC to shapeshift.io and convert it to Monero and then convert it back to Bitcoin at xmr.to.

I am really shocked they had an advertiser pay to a bank account, especially one in the owners name. It's a huge OpSec mistake.


While this comment and its siblings do mention methods that can, in theory, be used to launder bitcoin, it's still really difficult to do it correctly. People vastly overestimate the privacy benefits of bitcoin. In many practical cases, bitcoin is probably one of the least private ways to get payment; every transaction is publicly recorded and can easily be traced through the blockchain without subpoena, warrant, social engineering, or any justification whatsoever. This is a treasure trove for law enforcement and will likely allow them to find criminals that never would've otherwise appeared on their radar.

Some tumblers are honeypots and many are scams that will skim the top off your btc while barely doing anything to your coins' "taint" rating.

Even if one's understanding of bitcoin and practice of opsec is impeccable, there is still the need to worry about trading partners out to the nth degree; one weak link somewhere in the chain may very well lead back to an otherwise-meticulous user. One also must worry about getting discovered through some other means, like getting a computer booked into evidence and having the bitcoin wallet found and a legal order entered compelling its decryption.

If law enforcement finds out someone unsuccessfully engaged in an attempt to conceal their possession of bitcoin, that person is adding years to a potential prison sentence with conspiracy charges, money laundering, tax evasion, etc.

Bitcoin is awesome for everyday use. Anyone who wants to use it for "underground" endeavors needs to do some serious homework, and not just plunge in believing "it's anonymous currency" or "it's anonymous as long as I send my coin to a tumbler after getting it".


> This is a treasure trove for law enforcement and will likely allow them to find criminals that never would've otherwise appeared on their radar.

If this was the case then why has it never been used as a means to catch someone so far? There have been hundreds of darknet related arrests and none have been related to bitcoin.

Pretty much every other investigative means is easier than tracking down bitcoin like that.


Give it time. Bitcoin's still pretty new. I don't think law enforcement is quite on top of it yet, if I had to guess.


I have a professional acquaintance ( my profession, not his) in the anti-moneylaundering division of a large national, non-US bank. He mentioned that their default assumption is that if an account or a transaction involves bitcoin, it is connected to criminals. They log the details and pass it on to the appropriate law enforcement agency.


The same thing happens where I work (a restaurant). One of my professional acquaintances assumes that if meal preparation involves a knife, it is connected to a murder. He writes down the wielder, date, and time, and sends the information to the police each day.


Was it a very niche brand of knife that is the nearly exclusive choice of criminals?


Yes, it was.

And don't confuse "nearly exclusive choice of criminals" with "only criminals choose it".

After all, cars are the nearly exclusive choice of bank robbers for getaways. But I don't think you are suggesting that every person driving in a car away from a bank should be documented and reported to the authorities.


No I'm not meaning to imply that anyone should assume someone using BTC is a criminal. However it's not irrational to pay closer attention to them.

I do think reporting every single BTC user to a three letter agency is pushing it though. I would understand doing that for accounts that raise red flags beyond simply using BTC, but doing that for every single one seems a bit paranoid and ineffective anyways.


:D if I could upvote twice I would


Many banks will give you a generic error when you make a transaction using an account number that is associated with a business models around bitcoin (e.g. companies that exchange bitcoins for cash after you make a wire-transfer to them are all tracked by the banks and the transaction fails with an unknown error. This is a fact in Unicredit, HVB, (possibly others?) The issue is usually "logged" ;-)).

I'd be interested to find out more about how banks implement possible black/white lists on their users. How far does it affect risk mgmt? Will users get negative points when applying for a loan? And how are customers punished who dare to bet on alternative banking like BTC or god forbid send cash to a bitcoin wallet.

Who knows more? (asking for a friend :))


Bitcoin can be laundered through mixers pretty easily making it very difficult to track it into a currency conversion.


Not only can bitcoin be tumbled, but think about the scenario where it is exchanged for another crypto-currency like litecoin then exchanged for bitcoin at another site, then exchanged for cash. Good luck tracing that.


> Good luck tracing that

Subpoena the trading sites? An active adversary would be running the trading sites, though I doubt they'd waste that info on a low-level case. LocalBitcoins says they retain all messages for 180 days, up from their previous 90. Is that purely for internal disputes?

Sure, if you're not doing anything illegal enough, you can get away with simply using sites in multiple jurisdictions and hoping it's too much of a pain. But let's not pretend it's not traceable. I'd only be happy with zero knowledge proofs (if they're real; I haven't understood the maths at all.)


>"LocalBitcoins says they retain all messages for 180 days" //

Can't you just wait longer than 180 days then? The investigators then subpoena for the transaction records to link it all back together and the records longer exist (in theory).


The crypto currency exchanges could be in any country, I don't think it is any solace to be able to send out subpoenas to sites completely outside the banking system.


But that's just more data, you just JOIN another table - the exchanges have a list of transactions, left column BTC adress, right column litecoin adress.

The difficult one-time work will be done when chasing terrorists. Everyone can be compelled to hand over data.

Crime is impossible.


If you sell btc for ltc on one site, split up the balances, then sell the ltc for btc on different sites, how exactly would someone piece that back together? The crypto currency exchanges would be transferring to and from their internal addresses. There would be no direct connection without knowing all the addresses the exchanges use, and they can (and should) use a different address for each transaction.

> Crime is impossible.

Lets not get carried away


The "sites" keep track of the transactions. This information could leak or law enforcement could successfully request this information.

High level analysis could find btc-altcoin transactions that "fit" together, maybe with later transaction when the person will eventually cash out, and use other data thats not obvious to us right now. A difficult problem, but one that is straightforward, fashionable (big data), profitable (lots of money at stake), and potentially something that law enforcement/intelligence agencies work on.

We tend to underestimate future capabilities ;)


Isn't that what bitcoin tumblers are for?


Thanks for posting this, OP's link is broken for people with adblockers.


I use uBlock Origin and it works just fine for me.


As an American, I wish we would stop doing this. It isn't effective, and it's a waste of time/resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

I'd even argue that its counter-effective to progress. Instead of punishing people for making more efficient systems, we should reward them, and try to integrate.


Well, Americans have been saying that about drug war, civil forfeiture, surveillance and many others things for a long long time.


... and its important to say, as experience shows, at this point its sadly irrelevant what average americans say.

while OP is right -- this doesn't seem to serve majority, the truth is that the system is rigged and this supposed to serve a few multinational corporations that feel their profits are severely cut due to copyright infringement, meanwhile posting record earnings.

it is still mind-boggling to me that this non-US human being doing allegedly non-violent crime will probably end up serving 25 years in american prison (wire fraud is a magic word in LE indictments) for a bunch of bits being configured the way to organize in magnet links that sharing of - as far as I know, similarly to URLs, had been found in courts around the world as a non-infringing act.


> the truth is that the system is rigged and this supposed to serve a few > multinational corporations that feel their profits are severely cut due > to copyright infringement, meanwhile posting record earnings.

Ignore that the system is rigged for the moment. I think it is safe to say these companies really like making more money. I have always wondered why then, they spend so much effort enforcing copyright laws rather than trying alternative methods to solve the problem and make more money.

E.g I know a lot of people who have some unblocking service and Netflix. Now they could increase prices for Netflix, so we wouldn't need the unblocking, but that's not on the cards. They would rather spend their efforts blocking me.

Is this purely to satisfy contractual obligations? I'd assume that any existing contracts must be in place for such a long time that making changes can't be done for quite a few years into the future and there is no realistic way to amend existing contracts. The contracts would have to cover new productions too.

Otherwise, this whole thing makes no sense to me. They appear to be giving up revenue, for no benefit to themselves.


Contracts with regional exclusivity give the content producers something a subscription model never will: a lump sum of risk free, up-front cash. People calling for global Netflix kumba ya with all content available are simply asking for producers to take a haircut.


I am honestly not aware of what Netflix contracts look like.

I'd have thought they also pay lump sums to get the streaming rights per territory.

Also I am proposing the subscription increases to get access, possibly per territory you want access to.


These contracts are seldom made public.

For one example of what we do know: House of Cards is not available on Netflix in Europe [1]. I'm sure Netflix is not happy with the situation but we can only guess as to what it would have cost them for the rights.

[1] http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-subscribers-eu...


That is not correct anymore. At least in Germany, House of Cards is indeed on Netflix.


It's important to emphasize that it's science that says this, not just experience: http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materi...


> to serve a few multinational corporations that feel their profits are severely cut due to copyright infringement, meanwhile posting record earnings.

That almost sounds like a Bernie Sanders level paranoia of words profits and corporations. Honestly share-worthy content exists because of these entities in first and I will never fault HBO, Adobe or Microsoft going after those who are pirating their software. I think it is government who is going after someone who cant defend himself and just pretending to have done something.


> I will never fault HBO, Adobe or Microsoft going after those who are pirating

That can mean very different things depending on your definition of 'going after'. If they chose to engage someone in a civil suit and could prove realistic damages, then in principle I wouldn't have a problem with them attempting to protect their IP.

But using the force and authority of the United States government (Homeland Security involved in enforcing IP infringement? Really?) to extradite a foreign national on criminal charges? That is in no way proportional to any of their perceived damages, and it goes to show just how bluntly the government is used as a tool by those with money and influence.


>But using the force and authority of the United States government (Homeland Security involved in enforcing IP infringement? Really?)

Homeland Security is in the copyright infringement business now. They've been added to the standard FBI warning at the beginning of all movies, probably as a way to make themselves feel better after all those mean TSA groping memes made people laugh at them.


Except that civil forfeiture is extremely profitable enterprise [1].

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/11/23/cops-...


So is the drug war. It all depends on where you're standing.


Prisons, lawyers, judges, social workers running drug rehab programs, feds (DEA, FBI), local police, defense industry selling helicopters, airplanes, surveillance technology, etc, etc.

An unthinkable amount of money has been spent and made from the drug war for highly questionable ROI to the public.

What type of reduction in police work would take place if the drug war was ended today? 20%? 30%?

The war on drugs is a job machine. DEA agents fly around like international playboys from the books I've read. Plus international governments get tons of money from the US to run their own interdiction programs.

There has to be some level of influence to keep the 'war' going from these perverse incentives.


> highly questionable ROI to the public

Only if you exclude people working for the public sector from you know, the public.

Those things create jobs for voting constituents. That's the main ROI here. Reduction in crime, drug use and increased security are just beneficial, but not necessary side effects of these initiatives.


Creating jobs for creating jobs sake is such a terrible justification. Especially because in this scenario (like many others) it's not a controlled economic stimulus but an ongoing money drain. Milton Friedman is turning in his grave seeing this idea become mainstream. These are highly skilled people too: lawyers, judges, and highly technical law enforcement who could be working on dealing with real crimes or protecting honest hardworking citizens. Not futile show trials to appease the copyright industry.


For some. Where's my cut?


Can't civilians exercise their right to seize anyone's cash?


Sure, Just like "Citizen's arrest" is a thing, I'm positive "Citizen's civil forfeiture" is too.


Ask the Bundy Clan about that


Government in general a profitable venture for those in government. You have to produce nothing, please no one and you get to decide how much money is your fair share of what others have worked hard to earn.


So did you make the roads you drove on to work? Impressive.

How about the fire, police, schools, environmental protections, consumer protections, and court system? How big is the military defending your patch of land?

I admit there are problems, but I'm always amazed when people say the government doesn't do anything, then take a car to work on public roads, listen to the radio (FCC), eat food (FDA), etc.


but whats your point??

he did make those roads... he paid taxes in gas, insurance, purchase of a car tax, license plate tax... all that do indeed sponsor roads he drives on!

as of military defending his patch of land, hard to argue. Africa is much bigger than USA -- how much they spent as a continent on defense? Bet 1000th of what US does. Other than that, he might choose to protect his own land with the second Amendment and keep military out of it, no?


Sure he sponsored the roads, but the government implemented those roads. Planning, buying, organizing, maintaining, etc are all part of the work that the government does.


I still don't get it. Who do you think paid for planning, buying, organizing and the cost of maintaining of all that??


All those things (planning, buying, organizing) are...work.

I was saying the government does lots of work. It doesn't always function great, but it does a lot right too.


No he didn't. If we abolished taxes tomorrow everything would fall apart.


Effectiveness has nothing to do with it. America is now just a simple goon to its corporations.


Uber did develop a more efficient system by stepping on legal lines and gray areas. They did have troubles after a while but not in the same way. Somehow network distribution has no 'economic' values to the eyes of authorities. I'd love to see some stats, in my mind p2p sharing wasn't growing, even going down Compared to the 2000-2010 era since people have other means to share and content (spotify, soundcloud, ...) and the novelty has faded.

I do profit from it from time to time to reach for very old clips, lives or albums that you cant find. It doesnt really hurt business if they dont sell it.


Spotify actually does use peer to peer distribution although it's not open source.


They don't anymore [1]. CDNs simply got too cheap to have a warrant a more complicated setup, that did not work on all their clients.

[1]: https://techcrunch.com/2014/04/17/spotify-removes-peer-to-pe...


I believe they stopped p2p distribution [1]

[1] https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-starts-shutting-down-its-ma...


Are you actually suggesting US companies compete on a free and open market, with consumers deciding which services and products deserve to survive based on the quality and price of the service/product? Then they might risk failing as a company just because consumers didn't like what they had to sell. Well I never! /sarcasm


>>>As an American, I wish we would stop doing this...

You can't really blame America. They've decided their jurisdiction extends to the entire planet. And, rather, than argue the point, the rest of the world just bends over and adopts the position. When faced with such supine sycophancy, why would America not keep acting this way?

I have utter contempt for Poland on this [and similar] case/s. What a contemptible lick-spittle, a once fiercely independent nation has become!


That sounds a lot like victim blaming. "They never said no, so what we did was totally fine!" Yes, other countries should say no to us more, but that doesn't absolve us for being a jerk.


am i the only one to walk away from this story thinking there must be a better way to handle large transactions than banks and cryptocurrencies.


Gold and diamonds?


also not without its problems. but yes. something like:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-gold

outside of the US. seems plausible.


Indeed, we should. Comrade Page, comrade Brin, I'd like to have the Google software stack. IP rights are an outdated concept and the collective has decided that Google's stack belongs to the people.

Besides, everything is just bits! If you represent the whole monorepo as a single integer, denying people access to it would be akin to patenting a natural number!


There are indeeed illegal numbers


Yes, but only with context. The numbers by themselves are of course just numbers.


you could say that from the actions that occur in France if not the EU that is how they view it across the ocean. Become the best search engine only to be told you cannot favor your own services, if that is not an indirect declaration you are now a public service I am not sure what would be


It's not public service, it's regulation? You can do what you want as long as you conform to certain rules.

For example we have private electricity providers, but the prices are regulated and capped. Private companies can't just do whatever they want when it concerns things we consider to be people's fundamental resources.


As always, the freeloaders are flagging the thread whenever too many pro-copyright comments appear.


A person in the US who, for example, wants to watch all but the latest season of Game of Thrones can go to iTunes and, within seconds, purchase and start watching. And it will be in better quality than the torrent which was ripped off some TV broadcast and re-compressed. iTunes is available for both Windows and Mac (plus various iOS) and is super simple to use. And the one purchase lets you either stream or download to any of your devices and watch whenever you want.

The very latest content does get artificially restricted due to various business reasons (licensing deals, etc.) and I suspect that will change over time to go to an instant-release model. Ditto for fewer geo restrictions. We're starting to see these changes more and more. For music, there are far more options available: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, etc. where one low monthly fee lets you play almost anything you want.

However, despite all this incredible ease for lots of different media, people still want content for free. Maybe the solution is to combine enforcement with an educational campaign so that people are aware of the myriad legal options available to them.


As an American living in Australia, I'd say your perspective is kind of skewed by the American market. A large number of torrenters aren't cheapskates or thieves but are from outside the U.S. and unable to even get ahold of this stuff due to the way licensing overseas works. Or if they do, it's at 1.5x-2.5x the price.

We have a 21st century distribution model tied to a mid-20th century legal framework and business model. It's hard to say what is fair in every case. What I feel is not fair is throwing the book at all of these site owners, especially when the laws are written in the U.S. but are somehow stretched to where they apply to people who never set foot there.

In 5-10 years, they could still be in jail while technology remakes itself to the point where either distribution and payment has finally started working gain, or torrenting has gotten to the point where it's nearly impossible to trace the activity to any one person. Neither option seems unlikely, and punishing people now for something that doesn't hurt anyone too much does not seem like it's worth it.


I'll give some more examples of use cases where the torrent system serves users better than the legal distribution, but has nothing to do with money.

My wife is Brazilian and I'm British, so we're trying to bring our son up as bilingual. Trying to find legally distributed mainstream kids films dubbed in Portuguese is incredibly hard. Sure, you can buy them in Brazil... and then they don't play on hardware in the UK. Neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime have them. Meanwhile, a quick search on a torrent download site gives me access to hundreds of mainstream films dubbed in Portuguese.

Torrents allow me to watch anything, anywhere, with minimal hardware. I don't need to buy DVDs or DVD players. I don't have to work out which subscription I need to use to watch the latest episode of a program. I have downloaded torrents for which I already own the Blu-ray DVD, but it's in a box somewhere and I can't be bothered to find it.

So yeah, there are lots more use cases for torrents than just wanting to be a cheapskate.


Similarly in the UK - if [!] our DVD player broke, someone might torrent the content we've paid for when we bought the DVDs on our shelf here.

Of course that may be a tortuous infringement. In the UK we briefly had a right to format shift but the media corps managed to kill that breakout of common sense pretty quickly.

We're in a pretty ridiculous legal situation again now, https://torrentfreak.com/itunes-is-illegal-under-uk-copyrigh... - ripping a CD you own is considered copyright infringement. It's moronic, there's no way the public would ever vote for this situation.

If such format shifting were to happen, I don't see what could possibly considered morally wrong about it?


Note: You can find some shows on youtube.

Cheers and abraços


My son liked Fishtronaut / Peixonauta [1] which was made in Brazil and released in Portuguese, Spanish, and English simultaneously, I think (it's on Netflix in the US).

1: http://tvpinguim.com/peixonauta/


Obrigado! We found a few kids shows - Palavra Cantada has a great channel on there, and there are a few Turma da Monica episodes.

But not films like Toy Story.


That was my point though -- excluding people who are in different markets, have special language needs, etc. etc. you're left with 95+% of the US market who have very efficient ways of legally licensing all but the very latest unreleased or specialty content. Yet still a huge number of those people pirate that content. So I just don't buy the argument that it's a lack of efficient systems that leads people in the US to pirate stuff. I suspect they do it because it's become socially acceptable and they'd just rather not pay for stuff they can get for free.


The motivation of people can vary a lot. For a big part of the world, the price of digital content is just not realistic at all.

For other people, like me, it's the lack of a reliable, convenient, well done solution. I won't touch iTunes with a 50 feet pole. All the on demand services I've tried have a limited catalog, reliability problems, stupid policies, try to push a bunch of stuff down my throat.

The torrent flow is perfect. Type the name of almost anything, wait 5-15min for it to download. Quality is amazing, no commercials, no bullshit.

I would gladly pay $100/month if I could go to IMDB and have a one click, 1080p download button on everything. Seriously.

> it will be in better quality than the torrent which was ripped off some TV broadcast and re-compressed

Sorry to say, but that is very out of touch.


The problem is that where I'm from, $100 is a weeks pay. An average Blu-ray costs a full days wage. VOD solutions exist, but they are expensive, poor quality, and are usually not in configuration I want/like(no subtitles/forced subtitles/forced dub). The internet is a global thing - a US or UK citizen can easily afford a brand new film. But move slightly further away from 1st world countries and new media is either too expensive for your average person or simply not available.


I used the $100 to express that I would be willing to spend a decent chunk of cash on a great service, I agree the price would need to be adjusted depending on the country.

I've lived in South America for quite some time, and paying $20 for a movie is completely out of the question for 95% of people. Piracy is completely open here, everywhere you have shops burning and selling bootleg DVDs for around $1.


I'd pay like a buck or two (or three) per movie. I don't have time to watch a movie every day. I tried Netxflix but they had at most a fifth of the movies I was looking for, so I cancelled the service again. I don't understand why the studios don't have sites of their own where I can just pay a bit and download a copy of any movie they ever made.


I'm a person in (1) the Netherlands, who wants to watch the (2) latest season of the Game of Thrones, runs (3) Linux without Apple-software like iTunes, and who does not want to buy (4) single items but has subscriptions on a service like Spotify.

The solution is not to educate the public, but to fix the distribution model.


Even my little sister has been using online streaming sites since she was 12, because she wanted to continue watching her favourite TV show, but in english, so she could pretend to be learning something for school while having fun.

No way to get the english dub even anywhere close to release in Germany, so the only solution was such a streaming site.

And now with the VPN ban, Netflix is useless, too. There's no realistic alternatives.


This.


It's not that I want conntent for free, I just don't want to be forced to pay for it. I view copyright terms as extremely excessive and copyright itself a restriction on the freedom of information, and thus, immoral. So I'll do by best to pirate and avoid copyright laws... (simlar to what people do with taxes).


"A person in the US who, for example, wants to watch all but the latest season of Game of Thrones"

This is simply not true. In my experience, only the most mainstream content is available legally on portals like itunes or netflix. If you want to watch something more rare (art film, old foreign film, film with subtitles in different language) you can try to buy very expensive DVD+shipping and wait few weeks for it to arrive or you have to use illegal sources.


Much of humanity has no access to what you are talking about. Without torrents and sharing most of humanity will have no experience of Game Of Thrones.


It seems like a lot of the most well-known pseudo-legal BitTorrent "groups" (PopcornTime, YIFY, ISOHunt, now Kat) turn out to be one-man shops, and as such, just completely dissolve as soon as their owner crosses paths with law enforcement. In some cases, these services are integral enough to the "scene" to be brought back by others. But other times, everything just stops for a while.

This seems like a bus-factor problem. Why does it keep happening? Why aren't these sites being run by multi-national teams that can survive a loss like this?

Even The Pirate Bay is "just" Swedish, so a sufficiently-motivated Swedish Government could shut TPB down. Meanwhile, there's no single country that could shut down e.g. Wikipedia.


> This seems like a bus-factor problem. Why does it keep happening? Why aren't these sites being run by multi-national teams that can survive a loss like this?

Trust. You have to be sure the people you're working with are diligent, careful, and won't turn you in (and likewise for them).


It feels like you could factor off the trust requirements into a much smaller kernel, though.

For example, you could operate (your instance of) your pseudo-legal service yourself, but open-source the codebase (sticking it on GitHub even) and accept patches from anyone.

You could also implement a simple replication architecture for your service, where at any time one node (yours) is considered to be the 'canonical master', and then other nodes can join the network as slaves, receive replicated state, and run as mirrors. Sort of like Linux package repository mirrors.

With such a setup, arresting the original maintainer just means 1. a codebase fork by a new maintainer, and 2. a (probably manual) network master-node election.

And that's just a setup that lets you stay in complete control without having to trust anybody (since you still "own" the codebase, and the master node, until you disappear.) If you are willing to relinquish control to the system itself, you could just build your service on a DHT or a signed store-and-forward hierarchy or a blockchain or whatever. There's no reason that things that are essentially "a BitTorrent tracker exposed through a website" need to have their canonical state anywhere at all.


You just described what.cd.

What.cd open sourced Gazelle, the source code for the website and tracker. The core development team accepts pull requests, but they are themselves insulated from the owner and operator of what.cd.

Since opening Gazelle, many other private trackers have adopted it.


Yes, the code is open, but the state of the what.cd tracker and website is not. If they were taken down, the service would cease to exist.


I doubt. In the recent thread linked on the homepage you can read they have quite contingency measures in place. If some government seized all production wcd servers tomorrow, I believe it would be running back after a few days.


Things like IPFS[0] address this problem.

[0] https://ipfs.io/


A distributed blockchain sounds right. Now imagine that "mining" for this blockhchain is serving torrents, and you have to spend currency to download. The currency can be sold for monetary currency (e.g. dollars or bitcoin), so leechers could pay seeders.


What problem are you trying to solve? Downloading torrents works fine. The weak link is the search engine and description-host.


and soon you'd have monopolies seeding and the whole decentralization fades.


I think you just discovered the first actual use case for ethereum. Albeit, the architecture would have to be a little different and there's a lot of complications in that.

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if ethereum came to be a way to host illegal websites considering bitcoins main market is for illegal transactions.


bitcoins main market is speculative investment, its a good hedge against inflation


I'd also wager more communication makes more vulnerabilities. Thinking back to lulzsec and dread pirate Roberts, both were caught thanks to communication.


To add to this even more, Lulzsec got outed by a member who chose to cooperate with the FBI, and in doing so got a reduced sentence. So in many ways, your security is entirely dependent on the security of everybody else - if they don't hide their identity well, then your identity can be in jeopardy too.

If someone starts cooperating with some type of law enforcement you're screwed, and if anybody gets caught and is facing a 50 year charge unless they cooperate, you can probably bet on which one they'll choose.


At least one CP group managed well: https://web.archive.org/web/20130119025623/http://dee.su/upl... "PGP & alt.anonymous maildrops, rotating keys regularly, where the bust only happened because a member was busted for non-ring-related problems and the only busted members were violating the Hushmail lesson by using a third-party service."


This is the major hurdle in all criminal endeavor.


> This seems like a bus-factor problem. Why does it keep happening? Why aren't these sites being run by multi-national teams that can survive a loss like this?

I mean, I would assume it's because it's shady business. Even if you made it multi-national, there are probably only a few places where you could reasonably keep the server hidden for an extended period of time (Keep in mind, these aren't Tor services or anything, they're pretty out in the open as far as I can tell) - and you're making money off of ads, so actually getting paid is another complicated issue. And really, if you only need one person, why bring in the risks of a second one? I don't think you'd be very concerned about "keeping the scene alive" if you're going to jail.

Wikipedia is easy in comparison because most countries don't throw you in jail for running a Wikipedia server.


I'm interested in the problem of how you would solve a distributed system that is moderated yet guards against bad actors.

To answer your question I think these are one man shops because they get shut down before reaching the size that you could have a larger team involved. Maybe if someone without a profit motive started something up they'd build a system that solved the problem above and could therefore last longer than a lone individual's contribution.


Because realistically speaking nobody cares. Having people trust wikipedia to stay open or be at least backed up and not controlled makes them more likely to contribute to the upkeep of the site. If i'm downloading software for free from a list of public trackers, it is more or less completely interchangeable to me and everyone else involved in the process.


It would be a bus-factor problem if any one person ran all these things. But they're all run by different people, none is essential.


> Meanwhile, there's no single country that could shut down e.g. Wikipedia.

You don't have to shut it down, you can simply prevent access to it, like in China. Problem solved, if that's something you considered a problem in the first place.


Wikipedia is designed to be easily downloaded and distributed in other ways


Easily, only when you have fast connections. The smallest archives are in the 20 GB kind of range for the English language, and that's without pictures. And good luck finding updated mirrors for the content, or even recent dumps.


I've used a re-compressed version in the past, with reduced xml markup, and with the most rarely visited articles removed. It was around 1GB when I downloaded it, and it used the proprietary MDX/MDict format. You can find downloads here (from 2010):

http://sh0dan.blogspot.com/

Or you could just download the Wikipedia CD. It contains 5500 articles from 2007:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_CD_Selecti...

Neither of those two are very up to date of course, but it shows that it can be done.


I can ship a BluRay disc or three pretty quickly...


Copyright infringement isn't a tort in San Marino, nor Ethiopia AFAIK, setting up there would seemingly put you beyond legal obstructions.

USA government always have a way though, there's no way either place would stand up for their own citizens once the USA start threatening sanctions.


Because these sites do not matter? Torrent sites are pretty much bottom feeders but public torrent sites doubly so? The important sites are scene FTP sites, especially topsites where releases actually happen.


PopcornTime is alive and kicking. Actually 2 of them popped up after the demise of the first one.


Aside from the legal technicalities here, I mostly ponder the future of IP. I think Napster positively affected the music distribution world in the long run. I am not very black-and-white on this issue, however, since there are many contradictions by both sides.

I read the majority of comments here on HN about dated business models, big corporation dislike, the old executives don't understand the new market, etc..., but then a young indie artist in LA finds out Zara the clothing retailer has obviously copied her designs, and the lynch mobs are out to boycott Zara, send letters and other things to Zara and their attorneys. [1]

I have not inquired directly, but I am guessing a number of the indie artist's supporters have downloaded a torrent or two. How do they morally distinguish the two, or how does anybody who is against copyright or property rights of IP?

[1] https://www.buzzfeed.com/victoriasanusi/an-independent-artis...


I think the moral difference may lie in the balance of power between the IP holder and IP infringer :

In Zara vs indie designer, Zara steal the design and uses its power to distribute and sell it to the whole world. The indie designer cannot compete, or fight. The fact that Zara used her designs will not advertise her own products or make her money (maybe it did after the public outcry, but I guess it will not be the case for every indie designer).

In torrent website vs content producers, the torrent website or its user are not more powerful than the producers. They do not put the producers' business at risk. Everyone knows who made the original product, and may buy some genuine products or derivatives : torrenting can act as advertisement.

One of the other justifications for torrenting is that the content is not available in your country. Similarly, the indie design was not available in all countries. But the source of the issue is different : a small business may not distribute to the whole wold because of logistics, whereas producers and distributors voluntarily block content from being available when it could be.


I think a power analysis is incorrect here. Zara can and most likely will be held accountable for any illegal acts their lawyers committed by trying to intimidate the indie artist.

I am holding up the simple concept of property rights whether you are a big, and not necessarily bad, company, or you are a struggling moral artist. If you download torrents for any reason, it is still against the IP laws that protect them, even if you are doing it to make a statement. You are in effect against the concept of IP. Now, if you turn around, and call the big company evil or bad, because one of its 20,000 designers lifted a design off of a web site, how do you justify the apparent contradiction or hypocrisy.

I don't say this judgmentally, since I have struggled with this for decades. I buy indie games, donate to worthwhile endeavors when I can, and hope for the same reciprocation. I see the point for change and looking for new ways of doing business that benefit both sides of a deal. After all, the definition of a good bargain or deal is when both parties shake hands after exchanging goods and services, and each feels they received good value in the transaction when walking away.

To be honest, rigorously honest, sometimes demands calling ourselves out on our own contradictions and addressing them. I see to much dancing around the truth to justify what is currently stealing.


I agree that in both case (downloading torrents / copying design), one infringes IP rights. However, that does not necessarily mean that you are against the concept of IP : you could be against the way it is applied, or its extent.

Regarding power balance, I think it cannot be considered alone. Another justification to IP infringement is the damage or loss you potentially cause to the IP holder.

Not being against the concept of IP, I would like to see it applied with more nuance. For example : big company stealing from indie is wrong to me, but big company stealing from big company seems less wrong in my mind. To continue on indie games : downloading torrents for AAA game seems less wrong to me than downloading indie game. The relative damage that I cause is more important if I don't buy the indie game.

I am still struggling with this reflection. I would like to be able to remunerate each IP holder in proportion to the value the content had to me. And also, to add objective value in the calculation on top of my perceived value.


Morally distinguishing between the two is easy.

Zara had the ability to pay the indie designer for their work and didn't.

It'd be like if Bill Gates made a subscription payment torrenting site specifically for indie games.

If it had instead been a housewife in the Philippines who used the design to make clothes for her kids (or even a little money on the side) then very few people would care.


Again, I see a lot of incorrect or illogical arguments here. You are arguing magnitudes here, not morality or ethics, so not so easy as you say.

If you agree and respect IP laws, stealing by a big company or by a poor person is indistinguishable morally. They are both wrong. You may emote or perceive them emotionally different, but that is a different argument. You can't selectively apply it to different entities. Abandoning a child at a roadside to die who was under 5 years old was not illegal in ancient Rome at one time. Morality or legality? All or none?

My cloudiness eluded above is one of thinking that a newer business model will evolve eventually on IP, but we cannot try to force or accelerate it by committing illegal acts if we agree and live under those laws. The alternative is anarchy and no government, which is a choice to some people.


I get where you're coming from, and I think you make a good point, so I'll attempt to answer it.

--------

    Note that the following is an analogy. 
    I have no idea about the facts of the case, 
    but I'm trying to compare it to downloading
    illegal torrents.
--------

Imagine there's one designer for most of the world's t-shirts but she won't sell them to the UK so you can't buy one. Zara attempts to do a licensing deal which is profitable for the designer, but she's greedy and thinks she can get more money without the licensing deal. So Zara simply copies the t-shirts, UK customers get their t-shirts and the designer gets nothing.

This is essentially the problem. Disney has an almost complete monopoly over the distribution of kids films, and like all monopolies, they end up over-priced with poor service. The government doesn't seem to care. But torrents allow us to break that monopoly.

It's not just about the cost. It's about how the digital distribution industry fails to service customer needs because its monopoly means the status quo is so profitable.


Lots of cognitive dissonance on HN regarding IP rights. Also, see any previous post where a Chinese company is accused of stealing IP or cloning apps.


Is it cognitive dissonance, or simply different people commenting? HN is not a hive mind.


Can't say for sure, just the feeling I get. HN comments usually seem pre-dominantly pro or anti copyright depending on context (e.g. "big company fails to comply with GPL" would result in mainly pro copyright comments while "bittorrent site gets shut down" would mainly result in anti copyright ones).


> HN comments usually seem pre-dominantly pro or anti copyright depending on context (e.g. "big company fails to comply with GPL" would result in mainly pro copyright comments while "bittorrent site gets shut down" would mainly result in anti copyright ones).

I wouldn't use the GPL as a copyrights poster-boy since it subverts the 'normal' use of copyrights (restriction of distribution by 3rd parties) - the FSF calls it 'copyleft' for that very reason. My feeling is that being pro-GPL and being pro-bittorrent is consistent with the "information wants to be free" mindset - no cognitive dissonance necessary. The day HN becomes pro-Mickey-Mouse laws then you would have an argument.


I disagree that the GPL subverts the 'normal' use of copyright (though I'm aware it is presented as such by the FSF). Tons of copyrighted works are licensed for distribution by 3rd parties. Software licenses which allowed unrestricted distribution existed before the GPL. What the GPL innovated on was to put light restrictions on distribution to ensure modified source code would be made available along with binary distributions. In a world without copyright, there would still be tons of software without publicly available source code (perhaps more than now, due to the inability to enforce GPL violations).

Also, "information wants to be free" is more of a vague idea than anything else. I want information to be free. I'm a big user and proponent of open source software (heck, I wrote a non-trivial feature of Webtorrent). That doesn't necessarily mean I'm against copyright.


> Software licenses which allowed unrestricted distribution existed before the GPL

There is a world of a difference between 'allowing' distribution of source code and mandating it (like the GPL does).


Isn't that exactly his point though? That the main innovation with GPL would be unenforceable without copyright.


The comments hear regarding IP rights and copyright seem remarkably consistent to me.

In my opinion, copyright isn't a problem in regard to television, films, music, etc. Everyone is in agreement that the people who develop this content deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and that copyright is a reasonable way to enforce this. For sure, some disagree, but I think this is the attitude on the whole and I believe that it's consistent with the way many feel about the GPL, and the outrage when the GPL is violated.

Again, in my opinion, the issue is how this content is distributed (or in many cases, the ways in which it is _not_ distributed). Isolating customers geographically and then (somewhat arbitrarily) deciding not to sell to those customers is a bitter pill for said customers to swallow. Selling media, like BluRay DVDs and then telling customers they've bought a license and can't back up that content or move it to a more convenient device, is another move that seems almost designed to upset customers.

If the content holders wanted to eliminate the effectiveness of torrenting sites, they could do so pretty quickly. They could license their products in ways similar to how music is licensed. They choose not to, in my opinion, out of greed and certain amount of disinterest in what their customers want.


In the case of stealing: You deny somebody else the possibility of buying the product.

In the case of cloning: You deny the progenitor the claim to its creation.

In the case of downloads: You make a copy of something. Whether it equates to a lost sale or not is a the point of contention. In many cases it may simply be the case that the product is unavailable, at all, or through conventional distribution channels.

In fairness that goes to a certain extent for cloning as well, but the big issue there is an unwitting consumer can buy a clone thinking it's the real thing, with possible consequences for the consumer, and perhaps even damaging the image of the creator of the original product.


And that's what I meant... You are doing all sorts of mental gymnastics to draw an arbitrary line between two things which are essentially the same. What if the Chinese cloned app was distributed through Bittorrent, would it then become legitimate? What if it the original app wasn't available in China or only available in English? etc. I think the elephant in the room is that most of the "anti copyright" crowd aren't really anti copyright at all but simply use Bittorrent for pragmatic reasons (which is OK, but please spare us the ad hoc moral philosophies).

</rant>


and you're talking poorly thought out hypotheticals a "Chinese cloned app distributed through Bittorrent"?

Do you mean a "competing app", in which case it's fair game. Do you mean a straight copy? You might have a discussion there, but why involve Chinese people?

Do you mean something like [legit] "ReactOS" which is a reimplementation of Windows XP? That satisfies the needs of a wider unserved market that still needs it?

Or some hypothetical "vigilante localised" app for people who need it in their own language. Sounds fair enough if the developer isn't serving that market.


The main difference is that Zara uses piracy to earn money, whereas most other pirates don't.

That's the general model of copyright that I support - it's legal to copy anything for non-commercial use.


Per the arrest of the torrent site runner in today's news, it seems he may have made millions in ad revenue on the torrent site.

The copying for non-commercial use is sometimes a moving boundary: For instance, you download a PDF of a technical book that is extremely expensive, or plain not available in your country, but you use it to just study on your own.

All the way to you download some video, sound, music, code, or book and incorporate it into your YouTube channel or your site that generates revenue for you. Now it is blurred IMO.

If you are parodying something, you may get away with it, but if you are leveraging it to avoid doing the work to generate the content yourself, you are stealing. It is commercial usage in this case, but many disagree it seems, but then point the finger at Zara mainly just because their a company. The actions of their lawyers are definitely illegal and low tactics, but just remember, it was most likely a very low wage designer that lifted the artwork from the indie artist's site. He/She will most likely or was already fired. Zara will be fine.


Don't most torrent sites run advertising? Yes some of that likely goes to maintain the server, but I doubt it all does in most cases.

A lot of sites distributing content like this are set up as for profit ventures.


What's the problem with making a profit from the legal provision of information? They're not infringing copyright themselves anymore than Google are - put "torrent $mediaName" (eg https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=torrent+mad+max+hash&oq=to...) in to Google and you can get all you need to torrent that film.


I think that's a false dichotomy. If these sites were unambiguously legal, people (like myself) would donate money for the costs of running them. But the problem right now is, that even if a site wasn't making any money (no ads, no nothing), the operators could still be thrown into jail.


> I have not inquired directly, but I am guessing a number of the indie artist's supporters have downloaded a torrent or two. How do they morally distinguish the two, or how does anybody who is against copyright or property rights of IP?

I leach and seed a lot, I send a lot of donations and bug-fixes to opensource projects, indie developers and small music bands, buy indie games on gog and steam. This year I spend on voluntary donation ~£400 (in BTC). Does it count?


It's the difference between copyright infringement for commercial gain, and for non-commercial, personal use.

I doubt many torrent site operators make much money from their operations, and if they do make a profit now, the level of risk (and prospect of bankrupting legal actions in the future) probably don't make it worth it.


Morality often has many sides and exceptions. Take someone who eats meat. I am perfectly fine buying chicken, but would vocally dislike if I saw meat from endangered animals being sold. My objection to have animal extinct does not impact my opinion about buying meat in the general sense.

A person who want to support young indie artist will do so through many avenues, some which supporting that artists IP. That doesn't mean that they must be in favor of IP, or must support every form of IP, but simply that their intention is to support the young indie artist. They morally distinguish the two, not on their opinion about IP, but the opinion of the author.


I would also suggest, that in the case of the clothing, the artist is probably not credited. Zara are claiming it as their own original work so she can't even claim copyright.


I think the downvoter should review this if they think I am unfairly representing Zara

http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/07/21/terribly-zara/


Something like: "When I pirate a movie they only lose that single sale, and they wouldn't have had it anyway because I would never have paid to see that movie. But when a commercial company like Zara makes a profit from stealing designs, well, they're scumbags"


I'm not a commercial company, who said I should be held at same level of scrutiny?


Not me. And not international copyright treaties either. When I download a movie it's unlawful, but they can only sue for damages. (US - a tort?) If I make a business out of downloading and selling the copyright material that tips it into criminal law.


The cat and mouse game continues.

Remember The Pirate Bay?

Why don't studios have their own similar sites where they allow free torrents of some shows and offer paid torrents.

As a busy person, I'd much rather pay for something which guarantees:

- high quality - no subtitles - no buffering issues - no viruses - click and play


Add "no backdoors" to the mix. Something that some of those studios (i.e. Sony) intentionally gave to their faithful clients.


Virus, backdoor, what's the difference really?


Can you please share the story you're on about?



Google "Sony Rootkit DLC"


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootk...

> Although the software isn't directly malicious, the used rootkit hiding techniques are exactly the same used by malicious software to hide themselves. The DRM software will cause many similar false alarms with all AV software that detect rootkits. ... Thus it is very inappropriate for commercial software to use these techniques.

> In order to download the uninstaller, he found it was necessary to provide an e-mail address (which the Sony BMG Privacy Policy implied was added to various bulk e-mail lists), and to install an ActiveX control containing backdoor methods (marked as "safe for scripting", and thus prone to exploits).

Freakin' unbelievable. And I have to pay for that shit if I'm someone who is willing to be sony's paying customer...


Because the people who run those companies are literally extremely old, very ignorant about technology, and they do not care what people want, only what they perceive as the best money-making investment.

They don't want change, they want business as usual, but their business model is dead, it's dead and rotting and they are going to accept that one of these days. Meanwhile pirates will keep stealing their worthless products.


I think you hit the nail on the head.

There is big generation gap on how the execs view the business model vs how their teenagers are using the product.

And as the new generation slowly takes over, the model will evolve.

Evolve or die right!


I agree mostly with this, but I am not sure it is all generational gap, or that large entities move slowly.

Also see my comment above about IP and copyright in reference to Zara copying an indie artist's designs and placing the patches on their clothing.

How come it is not ok when the shoe is on the other foot?

To be clear, I am sincerely asking here, since I go through bouts of taking one side then the other on music, movies, copyright, and other IP.


It's not different legally, they both have a right to protect their intellectual property.

There is a case to be made that people should have a human right to see or consume any media which might be enriching to their lives, even if they can't afford to. But seeing a movie is not the same as archiving and distributing that movie.

In my opinion, software and movie piracy is a side-effect of an industry that does not properly serve it's own market. Whether it's right or wrong doesn't play a role in that. Smart people would recognize that they are playing the game wrong, and they would have adapted their model by now. Some have tried, Netflix is a great effort to move in the right direction but it's been crippled by the idiotic licensing structure of the pre-internet business model.

Without getting into debates about morality or ethics, the MPAA and RIAA are getting what they deserve for responding to these challenges by responding with hostility toward their own consumers. They have not responded properly to the situation, and they dug themselves into further trouble.


> It's not different legally

It probably is different legally.

There are civil remedies and criminal penalties.

Criminal penalties tend to apply for willful infringement for commercial gain.

So when I download a movie it doesn't count. If I download movies and sell them it does. Zara removing the copyright notices from a designer's work, placing it on their clothing, and selling it pretty clearly moves it into the criminal end of copyright violation.


You can do all of those things on iTunes or Amazon Video. Why would the movie studios run their own content distribution when it gives them little competitive advantage.


No you can't, all the content there is DRM'ed. I believe many people care about running their videos where they like. For example, Amazon video does not work at all on Linux because there is no DRM support there.


You're confusing streaming (renting) with purchasing.

On iTunes, EVERYTHING is DRM free. If you purchase it, you get a mp4 (or mov), and that's it. No DRM.

So nothing is stopping you from paying for much of this content legally.


Not quite, Music you buy on iTunes does not have DRM and will play anywhere you copy it too. However it has your name, Apple ID, and email embedded into the MP3 file and anyone you share the file with can use a tool like exiftool to look at the embedded info.

Movies are another thing, they appear to be DRM free as long as they are on a machine that is authorized with the purchasers Apple ID. Once copied to a computer that isn't authorized, the movie will either refuse to open or ask you to authorize the computer with the purchasers Apple ID because once again all your info is embedded into the file. And if that wasn't bad enough, if you try to play a iTunes bough movie on a external device that does not support HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection) it will also refuse to play.

I got burned by this once. There once was a way to remove all the crap Apple puts in their movies, but the software that could strip it out hasn't been updated for ages now.


Unless there has been a recent change (and I can't find anything on Google to suggest that), iTunes videos still have Fairplay DRM.


Actually, everything is DRM encumbered on iTunes except music that is purchased. All other content has Fairplay DRM on it.


I have another corner case: Audio books.

I was infuriated to discover when I bought one on my computer in work it was then just about impossible to transfer it to any device that I could actually want to listen to it on (without resorting to hacks, or the analogue hole - through which it would have amounted to about 6 CDs of content).

The licence was not transferable to other devices either so I couldn't just download it again either.


There's no music/video so good released yet I would start using iTunes for them.


The video quality of iTunes or Amazon content are much, much lower than torrents though, due to more aggressive compression.


You mean like netflix/hulu/hbo now/AIV (+ prime)

Generally hits good enough on all categories.

of course torrents still win in content. Especially newer movies.

I want to watch a newer movie.

Is it on netflix/hulu/hbo/prime? Nope

Is it on AIV paid? Yes.

How much? 20 dollars.

That's too much for a movie I probably will only watch once. Any other options? At best a rental on AIV for a few bucks. That's pretty borderline. I'd pay that to see a movie I really want to see, but for one I'm taking a risk on it's a bit much.

I'd pay more for Netflix if it meant they get those new movies quicker. People seem to lose their shit when they announce a 1 dollar price increase though. Ridiculous, but there you go.

vs torrents I can just go into a webapp and pick out a movie. It gets downloaded and organized for me. I can watch it on my PC, my TV, via streaming, copy it to my iPad. Whatever. Easy, reasonably quick, free. Downside is it's illegal and immoral. I avoid pirating any content that I can easily access (I have some older shows that never made it past DVD, and are hard to find in general), because there really is no justification. When I was a student and content was mostly in expensive blu rays, I absolutely pirated.


Those are streaming websites, correct? I downlowd my music instead of using spotfy so I can listen to it where and when I want, the same with movies. HBO Go I would pay for though as I rather watch their shows as soon as they come out than download it later. But it's not available in my country.


Spotify does allow you to save your music for listening offline.


With DRM?


I find it interesting that a Polish man was charged by US laws, rather than under Polish law.

I think he opened himself to US law by hosting the servers at one point in the US. Regardless, it is rather fascinating that his first visit to the US could potentially be from extradition.


He reportedly is Ukrainian and not Polish.

This makes it even more interesting. I also didn't hear any Polish media reporting his arrest (I live in Poland).

I would like to know where in the country he was arrested and what he was doing in Poland - no luck so far.


Anyone doing things that affect the US is automatically subject to US jurisdiction. But whether they can be extradited depends on the particular treaty the country in question has with the US.


Are there any good examples of when this works the other way around? A US citizen being extradited to another country for non-violent crimes? Something in tune of computer hacking or hosting a website?

Other than drugs and murders, I have a hard time believing US govt to give out its citizens to third parties...


It doesn't happen even if it's murder. I know at least one case where an American soldier killed someone in Romania and was immediately sent back to the US instead of facing trial.

See https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07BUCHAREST1286_a.html for details.


The USA will not extradite someone for a crime that is not also a crime in the USA itself.


They will cause people to be extradited from countries where the actions weren't criminal ... what sort they dish to arrange those one-sides extradition treaties I wonder.

This sort of hypocrisy seems pretty immoral.


Does USA ever extradite its own citizens anywhere? Has this ever happened?


Yes it happens, not often but it does.


extradition treaties are reciprocal, no country is going to extradite its citizens if the other country won't extradite theirs in return.

the numbers don't necessarily balance: probably a lot more Mexicans commit crimes in the US and flee to Mexico than the other way around.

Usually, I would think, extradition entails countries extraditing their own citizens back to face charges at home; people will tend to commit crimes where they are, and run away after to escape; most people are citizens where they live. Countries with higher rates of immigration will have more foreignors around who have a natural place to escape to if they commit a crime.


> extradition treaties are reciprocal, no country is going to extradite its citizens if the other country won't extradite theirs in return.

That's not quite accurate.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16041824

> A critical test set out in the treaty is that the British request must include "such information as would provide a reasonable basis to believe that the person sought committed the offence for which extradition is requested."

> This requirement does not apply to requests submitted by the US to the UK


thanks for that, interesting article! but your quotes are a little selective and tell only one side of the story of that more nuanced article, I think leaving a deep misimpression for readers here on HN.

another quote from the article says "a Home Office-commissioned independent review...found the US had not refused any extradition requests since the treaty came into force. A total of seven US requests were refused by the UK in that time."

that asymmetry in the treaty is not the result of a disparity of negotiating power nor clearly unfair-to-one-side. It's because the US has "untreatyable" constitutional rights that UK does not grant its own subjects, so for due process to grant an extradition request, the UK must submit that evidence. Since the US and UK are such close allies, that treaty may reflect the UK's desire not to slow down the process in either direction. Perhaps (this is pure speculation, we don't have the data) if the US complied in the other direction as the UK does, the UK courts would grant more of the extradition requests.

I'm not meaning to argue that the asymmetry works out fairly for every single defendant, clearly individuals will suffer more in one direction than the other, I'm saying that "the People" on both sides are not necessarily disadvantaged if we "presume evidence of guilt" and a symmetric desire to punish.

and this is for another topic, but the presumption of guilt is how the system is designed to work, otherwise, how could they even compel you to show up in court, or hold an axe murderer while awaiting trial? the commonly quoted "presumption of innocence" applies when you are in court in front of judge and jury; the entire rest of the system from arrest thru the trial is based on a necessary presumption of high probability of guilt.


>"if the US complied in the other direction as the UK does, the UK courts would grant more of the extradition requests." //

You seem to have put a lot of weight on the numbers here. Do you know the total number of requests on both sides? Without that we can't really ascribe meaning to the refusal of 7 requests by the UK.

Even then we don't know if, for example, the UK seek tacit agreement before entering a request, which would account for no official refusals by the USA.

All I really know that's pertinent is there was an extradition of a young website operator who hadn't broken UK law (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_O%27Dwyer) and had never left the UK, not even was hosting content in the USA - any cases like that happen in the USA?


for various historical reasons, the US economy is among the largest, "most advanced" (not referring to products, but to services, financial markets, meta-stuff), and "most global" economies in the world. The US is among the most important trading partners for most other countries, most countries that export wish to export here.

In order to trade, you need to sign treaties, and that's not even including bi-directional extradition treaties that most countries are also willing to sign.

So yes, a young website operator in the UK got caught up in the web (spiderweb, not world-wide-web) of treaties that are meant to allow for largescale trade of goods including intellectual property consisting of popular entertainments that are owned by giant bloodsucking megacompanies.

Definitely sucks to be him; but Aaron Swartz, Kim dotcom, Napster... these all came before, and I doubt the kid "didn't know what he was doing". Kids lack the capacity to make good judgments about what they are doing even with knowledge, and many people benefit in small ways that seem harmless from downloading content so they sympathize with him, but you are leaving out the part where most teenagers don't manage to get caught up in these legal entanglements from activities conducted on such a large scale. Maybe there is something exceptional about his overachieving on the scale of "these stupid rules don't apply to me, I'm the gingerbread man"

I just read the story in the news this week about the Taliban taking advantage to the "tradition" of "boy play" in Afghanistan (essentially cops molesting children) to train boys to assassinate cops. Thinking about how much of the world lives in those types of culture, I just don't feel the need to shed a tear or rail against the extradition of criminals between civilized countries.

I call him a criminal because he is a criminal; at the same time and same probably as you, I also would like to see legalization or decriminalization or deregulating of many of the things the bloodsuckers make money from, but I don't find myself going to jail while I wait, nor do most people. I also don't litter even though it would sometimes be convenient for me to do so.

People who flout rules are not generally altruists, and I don't think he is an altruist.



None of those people are US citizens. They're foreign nationals extradited from the US most often back to their country of origin.


Thanks for searching this. On the first link I only found one US citizen though.


>I find it interesting that a Polish man was charged by US laws, rather than under Polish law.

Recent Polish policy is to become _the_ continental European ally to the US. So I guess this guy's fate is rather bleak as the Polish authorities will do everything they can to please the US.

He will get extradited and probably will spend the rest of his life behind bars.


> Artem Vaulin

Not Polish name, rather Ukrainian or Russian.


> Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said that KickassTorrents helped to distribute over $1 billion in pirated files.

So, two or three files, by Hollywood accounting.


If you think about it, torrent sites are like a modern day robinhood. They take profits from the rich and bring enjoyment to the poor.


i don't remember robin hood lining his pockets with truckloads of money he made off of the dodgy ads that all these torrent sites serve.

and if its not ads, then it's the donations.


I suspect robin hood would have had the support of the people that he helped, so donations is appropriate.

I'd say where the analog breaks down is the media companies aren't exactly extorting the people, nor price gouging.


>media companies aren't exactly extorting the people, nor price gouging.

In your opinion.


Ok, I'll bite. What makes you feel they are extorting consumers or price gouging?


Because they bundle 200 channels of crap with the 5 channels that you actually want forcing just about everyone to overpay for what they're receiving.


Hence the popularity of HBO Go. Showtime, Discovery, History, BBC are also working on theirs and have launched them in some countries. Sadly, Comcast refuses to make deals with most of them, so we can't e.g. Get a Discovery account because we already pay them through Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon despite a similar deal with nearly every other provider: https://www.discoverygo.com .

At least where I live, we get a choice between AT&T or Comcast, where AT&T is over land line DSL @768k not guaranteed, plus I'd have to pay for a phone line vs Comcast at up to 300mbit. Guess which I went with

Anything that accelerates the downfall of the toxic incumbents in the US is a win in my book.


AT&T, obviously, as Comcast offers connection measured in millibits instead of kilobits per second.


Copyright and patent laws amount to extortion because they are enforced by initiation of force.


I don't remember Robin Hood being poor in the first place.


Indeed Sir Robin of Locksley had been knighted so he was no mere rogue ...


It's not cheap to supply all the bandwidth and infrastructure required for sites of KAT's magnitude. Also, the owners have got to eat as it's likely their full-time day job.


A very, very small number of the people who work on films, television, and music are rich. Let's at least be honest here: to the extent that they're cutting studio revenues, the people who are going to feel it most are tradesmen making even shittier wages for sporadic project work as it comes even less frequently.


> If you think about it, torrent sites are like a modern day robinhood. They take profits from the rich and bring enjoyment to the poor.

Over 2.1 billion people in the developing world lived on less than US $ 3.10 a day in 2012.

Downloading torrents means you've got a computer, power, internet and most likely food and clean water. You're not 'poor'. You're mingy.


Yes and some people make millions per day and on that scale I'm closer to $3.10. Poor is a relative term if you haven't figured that out. Thanks for lecturing us all on our extreme wealth though, I'm sure everyone feels better about themselves because of your statement.


> It also shows that Apple handed over personal details of Vaulin after the investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to KAT’s Facebook account.

I find it darkly ironic that a legal purchase of music helped them catch the guy.


Does that mean that Apple basically feeds every transaction information to Feds so that they can find this match?


Unlikely.

KAT apparently had a Facebook page, so step one was serving Facebook with a search warrant demanding the list of IP addresses used to administrate that page.

They likely then went to major companies like Apple, Google, etc. with search warrants for any billing activity (valuable as it comes with a cardholder name and address, usually) matching those IP addresses.


So he may have been fine by simply using a VPN?


Maybe, maybe not. Plenty of VPN providers are in places within the reach of US law enforcement, and it only takes one slip up to expose yourself.


Most likely. They become PRISM partner right after Jobs passed away, so at this point its a valid guess they share everything.

Or by now Apple simply has its own room 641A.


Does anyone know if there is data somewhere on how much money has been spent by governments (specifically the USA) on attacking copyright related stuff?

My main complaint about this is that I'd rather my tax dollars be spent stopping crime that causes physical harm.


Governments also collect many tax dollars from companies who profit from that IP.

That’s exactly why US government is most active in that area. They collect taxes from US-based film studios (all mayor are US-based, five of them are in California, NBC in NY, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_film_studio#Current) and software companies.


True. But I'd still rather law enforcement focus on crime that might kill me, than on crime that might take a few cents out of a rich persons pocket. I mean, are my tax dollars only spent on issues that directly effect my business?


In this case, it looks like it went through the ICE since it was an international crime. I can't find a budget newer than 2012, but all of their international investigations combined were $115 million in 2012 so that should be an upper bound for cases like this one.

https://www.ice.gov/factsheets/budget2012

I would suspect that purely domestic crimes are usually handled through the courts. For example, I don't recall the RIAA trying to get individuals prosecuted for crimes nearly as often as them suing people.


You're free to ask your congressmen to change the copyright laws. Until then, they should be enforced: Having some manager deprioritize certain crimes because he thinks they're too expensive to enforce moves power from the legislative to the executive.

You didn't directly make this distinction, but your point about preferring to allocate tax dollars to physical crimes would be a strange way to view changing the law.


Enforcement priorities are never equal. There are a lot of laws still on the books that no one cares about, so they haven't bothered to repeal them. It's naive to think that all laws are always enforced equally all the time. It's an impossible ideal.


Deciding how to enforce and execute the law is the job of the Executive branch. That, by necessity, requires prioritizing. The only exception is if the law actually prioritizes itself.

If we the people don't like how the law is executed, we can try to get the Legislature to pass a law that forces the Executive branch to do it our way. Or we can elect a President or Governor who agrees with us.


What a strange, strange straw man to knock down, especially since they were just asking for more data and explaining why they were curious.


Your congressman is most likely accepting large sums of money from companies supporting these draconian laws. Sums you can never hope to compete with.

So break these laws. Break them as much as is possible. Convince others to do the same.

Civil disobedience is the engine of progress.


If you have a concrete example of this occurring, then consider whether it's bribery:

18 U.S. Code § 201 - Bribery of public officials and witnesses "directly or indirectly gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official, for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official; or

being a public official, former public official, or person selected to be a public official, otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty, directly or indirectly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such official or person; "

My understanding is that prosecutors would be heavily incentivized to find an underground bribery operation on Congressmen; it would be a career-making move, and they could make press releases to everyone. People clearly care about corruption and bribery, as evidenced by this election cycle.

The commenters in this subthread have already agreed that it is good to give prosecutors extensive leeway in prosecuting crimes, or even deciding whether something is a crime. And in this particular case, the incentives line up. So it seems unlikely that congressmen are engaging in outright bribery, with the prosecutors letting them get away with it.

Again, if you know something that the prosecutors don't, you can contact your state Attorney General to report a crime. They would probably at least open up an investigation. For example, it looks like 5 Congressmen have been prosecuted over the last year alone, so they're hardly immune to the law:

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/dem-congressman-conv...

Additionally, the FCPA makes it a crime for US companies to bribe foreign officials(such as in the Ukraine, where this article's criminal seems to be based). I've had to sit through 3-4 of these anti-corruption seminars, and it sure seems like another law that prosecutors would love to follow up on.

My guess is that the lobbyists are simply more persuasive, and seem to care about the law a lot more than the other types of people who comment on the law.


Lobbying is what I was referring to, and it basically is bribery legalised.

You cannot hope to compete with lobbysists from Disney, the MPAA/RIAA etc. It's heavily skewed in their favour.


Another black market business opportunity brought to you via fed money. DOJ, FBI, polish police, etc, etc all spent tax money on this takedown. All working so the next guy can make a website and make $16 million / year. And it only takes one guy to run the site apparently.

Who knows maybe the next guy will use Tor, Bitcoin, read Grugq's blog and be 5x as expensive to hunt down. Thanks US tax payers!


The disincentive to start the next pirate website is the fact that the owners/operators of said website are subject to arrest and jail time. If actions like the ones in linked article didn't occur, you would find a large array of piracy websites pop up and operate with impunity. Under such a scenario, each website would individually earn less.

Yes, piracy websites will always exist, but the purpose of these shutdowns is to minimize the net profitability of operating piracy websites and to deter would-be operators. However, the constant shutdowns of piracy websites does create a perverse incentive in which those that succeed do so at a massive scale.


>The disincentive to start the next pirate website is the fact that the owners/operators of said website are subject to arrest and jail time.

But it takes only one guy who thinks "they will never get me as I'm smarter" to have your next KAT/Pirate Bay that will (allegedly) cause billions dollars of damage.


> But it takes only one guy who thinks "they will never get me as I'm smarter"

And fortunately for us, Eastern Europe is full of the these kinds of people. :)


God bless them, the industrious little rapscallions!


This will be interesting to watch. Torrent sites only host torrent files; I'm sure he'll argue that the DMCA requests were invalid because the people filing them didn't own copyright to the torrent files, which were the only thing that the site distributed. Where do we draw the line? Do we prosecute people for posting a magnet link? If a movie studio puts an MP4 of a not-yet-released film on its servers, is it illegal to link to it?

It will be an interesting case to watch if he takes it all the way to trial. I don't think it's nearly as open-and-shut as the DOJ would like everyone to believe every case it files is though.


>>> Torrent sites only host torrent files;

They do not even host those any more

All of the Torrent Sites are only Indexers of Magnet Links, no different than google. The BT Client then takes the Magnet Link, downloads the torrent file from peers in the network.

When you Click on a download link from KAT nothing is downloaded from their server, it is simply a protocol link that tells your BT client what file you want.

It is Technologically No different than a HTTP url, so if KAT if violating Copyright law then every other Search Engine is as well


I always use magnet links, but I thought KAT offered multiple formats for each link, including the magnet link but also the torrent file. In any event, I agree with you that this is an incredibly slippery slope the government is going down here. They are also taking a significant risk in filing this case, as an acquittal will set a precedent that operating a torrent site does not constitute copyright infringement.


Aren't file-hashes derived works?


That would be news to me. More likely, they're just going with a conspiracy argument (and indeed he is charged with conspiracy): he didn't actually commit copyright infringement himself, but aided others in doing so. Even then, conspiracy laws have very specific requirements for conviction, and this may not check all the boxes. It will be interesting to see.


There is a very improbable risk of hash collision for two different original works, so… no, they aren’t?

Interesting (and somewhat very worrying) proposal, however.


So if extradited he may be tried. Now has jury of your peers (fellow citizens) any meaning in case of trying a non-US citizen? Jurors must be US citizens, but they will not be his peers, really.


" unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials.”

bullshit of course. He simply hosted hashes of torrents that other people uploaded.

As far as I know he even acknowledged dcma takedowns.


Well we all switched from TPB to Kickass... which one do we switch to next?


I kind of like TorrentProject. The UI leaves something to be desired (make sure to use advanced searching) but...


Thank you! TorrentProject indeed looks like the proper alternative to KAT.


TPB, or more likely it's clone, still works (with .se extension).


It's incredibly sketchy these days. I wouldn't recommend it.


1337x.to maybe?


So that's why KAT's been down all day.

Two things: If you're going to build a torrent indexer, don't profit from it. Keep it alive yourself, with NO ads, just plain HTML and JS and images.

Second: This is why I vastly prefer usenet.


> If you're going to build a torrent indexer, don't profit from it.

It just occurred to me, what if someone wanted to go the legal(ish) way, setting up a non-profit organization to host the tracker? Such an organization could still manage ad-derived profits, keeping only those necessary for its continued operation, and donating the rest to cultural entities, like museums, libraries, independent producers, etc.

Would this be viable in some country?


But you have to pay to access Usenet - sort of defeats the point. And the whole retention thing sucks.


Sonarr + Usenet + Nzbgeek, no issues whatsoever and I can download my public access public broadcasted tv shows at my full ISP speed.


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