The second largest torrent site in the world, YTS, is actively working with copyright infringement lawyers to extort cash from torrent downloaders. This isn’t the only historical instance of a torrent site storing IP addresses to be used against torrenters but it is a confirmation of a disturbing new precedent which may stand on shaky legal ground. In the past, torrent sites like The Pirate Bay (TPB) have stored IP addresses and even given them up as a way to pinpoint original uploaders of certain torrents. There have also been instances where YTS has given up logs in court for ongoing cases against downloaders. The most recent revelation, though, is that YTS is also giving these logs to the Culpepper law firm in Hawaii so that Culpepper can send “Pay-Up-Or-Else Threats” to those that have used YTS, before a case is even filed.
Torrenting site is giving up IP addresses and emails of users so that they can be threatened with copyright infringement claimsThat’s right… This time around, YTS is giving up the IP addresses and emails of downloaders to a copyright infringement lawyer who then turns around and tries to extort torrenters for cash settlements. TorrentFreak has been covering these revelations from YTS as part of an ongoing copyright infringement case against a US veteran. Now, TorrentFreak has seen a letter which confirms that torrenters using YTS are being caught up by what TorrentFreak calls “the most extraordinary business/legal arrangement ever witnessed in the piracy scene.” YTS provides the logs to Culpepper, who then sends the YTS user a threat of a case which can be settled for around $1,000.
The threatening letter tells the YTS user that the lawfirm knows that he or she “logged into the website YTS using the email address [redacted] from the IP address [redacted] and illegally downloaded a torrent file for copying our clients’ motion picture…”
The thing is, downloading a torrent file which contains metadata is not the same thing as then loading that torrent file into torrenting software to start downloading the actual file.The legality of what the lawyers are doing is very murky to say the least, even with regards to how they receive the information to send out the threats. TorrentFreak’s Andy Maxwell explained the situation:
“In summary, what we appear to have here is a verifiably illegal site, run through an ostensibly legal entity, collecting and processing private user information, then handing that data over to third-party overseas attorneys/media companies, ones that appear to know the legal status of the site and the company behind it. This, so that people can be approached for payments for alleged offenses that took place utilizing that illegal site.”
Torrenters that use sites like YTS need extra protection to torrent safelyTorrenting has come a long way since the release of BitTorrent over a decade ago and most importantly still isn’t illegal. However, the fact that the entire industry relies on centralized repositories of trackers, aka torrent sites like YTS and TPB, is a bit ironic given the decentralized nature of the technologies involved. Visiting a clearnet website that logs your IP address when trying to torrent privately is bad enough, knowing that your logs will actually be given up to copyright infringement lawyers and end up being used against you in legal proceedings is a real life and ongoing worst case scenario for torrenters around the world. These sites are really a point of vulnerability for torrenters, both in terms of functionality and apparently liability. Many governments seek to block torrent sites – though countries like India have confirmed that visiting a blocked torrent site with the use of a VPN is not illegal . In fact, for non Indian users of YTS, it seems like a pretty damn good idea.
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