Saturday, November 27, 2010...11:08 am

Torrent search site seized by US government with no warning – are bloggers next?

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Torrent-FinderIf you came home from work and found that the local council had broken into your house and seized your possessions without warning because it believed you owed money for Council Tax, you’d be incensed. Yet this is pretty much what has just happened in the digital world.

Via Mashable, here’s an interesting and disturbing item about the closure of P2P (peer-to-peer) torrent search site Torrent-Finder.com by US government agencies. It may seem far removed from journalism blogging, but there are serious implications.

Apparently the first the site owner knew about it was when he visited his web host and saw a change to his domain name. It seems the host (GoDaddy) had no idea what was going on and the action had been taken unilaterally and without warning to the host or the site owner.

Copyright theft – the main business of P2P file sharing – is illegal, and the bane of many copyright holders’ lives. But two issues are important here.

  1. Torrent-Finder.com is a search engine of torrent hosting sites, not a torrent site itself. Its results are functionally only the same as those you’d get from Google.
  2. If there as any alleged infringement of copyright, or any other data offence, a site owner should have some warning that the feds are about to arrest him (or close his site).

You may not care about the fate of a torrent site (after all, it’s all about bootleg movies and pornography). But what is the implication for other site owners?

Big media owners complain endlessly about bloggers, among others, stealing their copyright material, even just by linking to it. What if they get enough traction to push the US government into closing down aggregation news sites or bloggers with no warning whatsoever?

Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the digital world needs the same due process of law for exactly this reason. Will your site suddenly be unavailable next time you want to publish a story?

1 Comment

  • I don’t like the way things are going where online ‘freedom’ is concerned. This case last week is also disturbing.

    I fear that in a few decades we may look back on the present time as an age of innocent digital freedom… before the authorities moved in.