OpenBitTorrent is a non-commercial BitTorrent tracker that doesn’t host or link to torrent files. Despite this seemingly neutral setup, both Hollywood and the music industry have declared war against what they see as an illegal service. After Hollywood won its case against the former provider of OpenBitTorrent, IFPI is now going after its new host in Spain.
In the last year or two the entertainment industries have targeted many BitTorrent sites. The majority of the verdicts against these sites have thus far ruled in favor of the copyright holders. Only in Spain have BitTorrent sites been repeatedly found to operate within the boundaries of the law.
Under Spanish law torrent sites and BitTorrent trackers deemed legal even though some of its users may be using it to download copyright infringing content. This might be one of the reasons why the OpenBitTorrent tracker moved to a Spanish host after Hollywood managed to get a court decision in their favor against its Swedish hosting provider.
The OpenBitTorrent tracker, which doesn’t link to or host any torrent files and is not linked to any torrent search engine, merely serves as a facilitator of the communication between torrent users, much like BitTorrent clients do. This means that the site is not breaking any laws in Spain.
“According to all Spanish legal resolutions, a link does not communicate nor reproduces the work under intellectual property,” copyright expert and lawyer Javier de la Cueva told us. “So, linking is not a violation, hosting without the rights holders permission is.”
Despite this seemingly safe legal environment, music industry lobby group IFPI decided to go after OpenBitTorrent’s new hosting company in Spain. A few days after OpenBitTorrent moved to SoloGigabit, its owners received a threatening letter stating that the hosting company could be “liable for aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringements and receiving payments from criminal activity.”
In their communication with SoloGigabit, IFPI argues that OpenBitTorrent is facilitating copyright infringements because users of The Pirate Bay may be using the tracker. “The tracker performs a key function for the BitTorrent file sharing service provided by The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay service has been judged illegal in several countries,” IFPI writes, referring to the Swedish criminal trial that’s currently under appeal.
“The OpenBitTorrent tracker does not itself host any copyright protected works, but enables the infringement of sound recordings and other copyright works to take place by its role in The Pirate Bay file sharing service. The copyright works are made available and infringed by users of OpenBitTorrent and The Pirate Bay,” IFPI explains.
Feeling threatened by IFPI’s letter, the owner of the hosting company decided to inform OpenBitTorrent’s operator that they have to find a new bandwidth provider by the end of July. This means that, again, OpenBitTorrent has to move to a new location, this time as the result of mere threats.
We contacted the owner of SoloGigabit who told us that he was not sure what to do with IFPI’s complaints. After we informed the owner about the legality of BitTorrent trackers in Spain he doubted whether he had taken the right decision. However, successful or not, a lengthy battle in court is a huge burden for a small hosting company. Even though SoloGigabit might have the law on their site it is understandable that the owner is hesitant to fight IFPI.
Whatever happens, OpenBitTorrent is determined to stay online. The tracker’s operators told us that they are prepared to move to a new location again. This time, they hope to find a company that is less prone to threats from the music industry.