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Mininova’s Death of a Thousand Cuts

A Dutch court has ordered Mininova, a popular torrent search Web site, to remove all torrents linking to copyrighted content from its Web site within three months, or it will face hefty fines.

Dutch anti-piracy organization Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland (BREIN) filed a lawsuit against Mininova that resulted in the judge’s ruling.

Torrents are a terrific way to distribute large files, but the technology has been abused by copyright violators. While sites such as Mininova do not host pirated content, they do host torrent files that link to tracker servers that facilitate piracy. Tracker servers coordinate communication between peers that are distributing files.

Mininova took measures to remove torrents that link to copyrighted content from its site by deploying a content recognition system in May. That was not enough to appease the judge, who ruled that Mininova had to do more to prevent piracy – even though it was not directly responsible.

That may just be a sisyphean task. Mininova is a community Web site where its users upload torrents, and there are many thousands of torrents. I do not see how it will be able to keep every “bad” torrent off of its site without reviewing each submission manually.

With BREIN examining Mininova under a microscope, and a court imposed penalty of 100 Euro per infringing torrent, it is probably just a matter of time until the site dies a death of a thousand cuts. The fines are capped at 5 million euros, but that might be too much for Mininova to swallow.

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BitTorrent Search Aggregator Filters Copyrighted Content

In a win for big media companies, Mininova, a popular torrent search Web site, today deployed a content recognition system that removes any file linking to allegedly copyrighted content, and will permanently ban those files from being re-uploaded.

Torrents are a terrific way to distribute large files, but let’s face it: the technology has been used largely for piracy, despite its many merits. People don’t go to sites like Mininova to download Linux faster.

While sites that aggregate torrents are not hosting illegally gotten content themselves, certain ones know full well that they are facilitating it. They are just hiding behind the BitTorrent architecture.

There are various esoteric arguments made in defense of torrent search Web sites such as “a crime can be committed with product X, but the people that sell it are not responsible for the action Y.” I don’t buy that. There is a correlation between content piracy and torrent search sites, and everyone knows it. Pirate Bay is the perfect example.

Pirate Bay has infamously flaunted the fact that people could go to its site to locate copyrighted content, but argued that it was not engaging in any illegal acts due to the decentralized nature of torrent file distribution and the relative permissiveness of Sweden’s national copyright laws. The courts ruled otherwise.

The letters Pirate Bay has published from a gaggle of angry attorneys are oftentimes hilarious and amusing in a punk rock “stick it to the man” sort of way, but are also wildly adolescent. Web sites that profit from posting torrents files should perform due diligence to ensure that copyrights are not being violated as a consequence–period.

Mininova is cooperating with an unnamed association that represents copyright owners. It is doing the responsible thing, even if it was induced into taking action by the threat of lawsuits. The Web can’t be the wild wild west forever, and a business should not exist simply to enable illegal acts.