I just learned of TorrentSpy.com, a site which allows users to search for files on a p2p network named BitTorrent. Typically this isn’t something I would devote brainwaves or electrons to but in this case it seems like an important exception.
You see TorrentSpy.com is going to shut down access to US users. In addition a US judge will soon decide whether the site has to turn over user information to the Motion Picture Association of America.
I went to the site and searched for “John Stewart” and received the following message:
Sorry, but because you are located in the USA you cannot use the search features of the Torrentspy.com website. Torrentspy's decision to stop accepting US visitors was NOT compelled by any Court but rather an uncertain legal climate in the US regarding user privacy and an apparent tension between US and European Union privacy laws.
TorrentSpy does not actually host movies on it’s site, has other legitimate uses besides supporting piracy and is located in the Netherlands.
I am not a lawyer but it is difficult to understand how the MPAA has a case against the company. The site does however run ads and although I could not verify this fact, it is possible it is generating revenue from ads connected with pirated videos. This latter issue is obviously a legal problem for the company.
But the larger concern here is TorrentSpy is essentially a search engine, albeit a specialized one. If US legal pressure can force this site to shut down in the United States and also hand over its user records, what does this mean for other search engines and websites with casual links to pirated content?
Will a judge force TorrentSpy.com to turn over the search I just ran on John Stewart? Does this mean I had the intent to download something which is copyrighted and now I can be held liable? Will this blog entry linking to TorrentSpy.com get me in trouble with the law?
I don’t know about you but it seems to me user privacy and freedom seems to be potentially at risk here. I am not a lawyer but I am a concerned citizen. More on this issue can be found at CNET