The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is steamrolling across the great indexing plains. Tuesday brought news the eDonkey2000 indexing server Razorback2 was taken offline by Belgian Police, in conjunction with the MPAA. Today, the MPAA has announced a tremendous escalation in their fight against online piracy - this time targeting BitTorrent, eDonkey2000 and Newsgroup NZB indexing sites.
Specifically, seven lawsuits were filed in Federal Court across the United States. Most remarkable of these lawsuits was the MPAA's strategy to target Newsgroup NZB indexing sites. Newsgroup indexing sites function much differently than eDonkey2000 or BitTorrent sites, as their role is to supply "NZB" or Newzbin files. These NZB files greatly simplify the task of downloading material from the Newsgroups. It eliminates the once lengthy process of digging through multiple groups and headers to find the desired archive.
Because of the Newsgroups' long standing reputation of being a legitimate online source of information and community interaction, such associated indexing sites were considered immune from prosecution. Today's action dismisses this notion.
“Website operators who abuse technology to facilitate infringements of copyrighted works by millions of people are not anonymous – they can and will be stopped,” said John G. Malcolm, Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA. “Disabling these powerful networks of illegal file distribution is a significant step in stemming the tide of piracy on the Internet.”
In all, nine indexing sites have been targeted (Isohunt.com, BTHub.com and TorrentBox.com all owned by one individual.) BitTorrent: ISOHunt, TorrentSpy, NiteShadow.com, BTHub.com and TorrentBox.com; eDonkey2000: Ed2k-It.com; Newsgroups: NZB-Zone.com, BinNews.com and DVDRs.net.
The operators of these indexing sites appear surprised at the MPAA’s decision to sue, as they have yet to receive any notification.
“Funny, they didn't email me,” Gary from ISOHunt said. “I'm not too concerned because we deal with copyright requests everyday, some of them from studios MPAA represents.”
“Justin” from TorrentSpy echoed Gary’s skepticism. “I guess I will learn more when I see what they have filed exactly. [I’m] not sure why they are suing when we comply with DMCA requests but I guess we will learn more down the road.”
A point to consider is TorrentSpy and ISOHunt are search engines - not trackers. Their role in the BitTorrent community is considerably different from previous lawsuit recipients such as the trackers EliteTorrents and LokiTorrent.
Trackers are responsible for directing BitTorrent community traffic by hosting the actual torrent file. Conversely, indexing sites operate in a fashion similar to Google or Yahoo! and only search a tracker's database. They host no actual torrent files. Fred Von Lohmann, staff attorney for the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), told News.com no court has ruled on the legality of this issue.
"We haven't had a case that really tests the case of whether providing an indexing service by itself an infringement," von Lohmann said.
How the above mentioned indexing sites will react remains unclear, considering they have yet to actually receive the complaint. While large scale sweeps such as this typically happen once per year, the major difference this time is the inclusion of Newsgroup indexing servers – a radical departure from typical copyright enforcement actions.