Stream of Torrent sites 'hard to stem'

Posed photo of Internet user downloading data via BitTorrent.

A campaign by European governments to combat online piracy by taking down BitTorrent websites has largely been ineffective, with users here and overseas finding alternative ways of getting their file-sharing fix.

Two weeks ago, the most popular torrent website, The Pirate Bay, was taken down in a raid by the Swedish authorities.

Other websites, such as EZTV, Zoink and Torrage, along with Pirate Bay's forum Suprbay.org, were also closed.

The sites remained inaccessible yesterday.

But with many other BitTorrent sites to choose from, users in Singapore can still share files illegally.

Three Internet service providers (ISPs) say BitTorrent traffic has largely been unchanged over the past two weeks, even though the sites that were taken offline were among the more popular.

An M1 spokesman said: "There has been no significant change in our customers' peer-to-peer downloads since Dec 9."

Similarly, broadband service provider MyRepublic chief executive Malcolm Rodrigues said he has seen zero impact on overall torrenting traffic.

"There are so many places that people who are committed to doing what they do, can go.

"At most, people are inconvenienced, but most of them can find thousands of other sites since they can Google for them," said Mr Rodrigues.

ViewQwest chief executive Vignesa Moorthy echoed the sentiment, saying: "The takedown does not seem to have had any impact on torrent traffic. There are lots of alternative sites for users to pick from."

A 21-year-old undergraduate, who gave his name as Mr Ho, said: "Online forums are listing alternative sites... There are better websites than Pirate Bay."

Other websites have sprung up to fill the space left behind by The Pirate Bay, such as a mirror site ending with a .cr domain.

It has even been "resurrected" by rival torrent site IsoHunt under the name of Old Pirate Bay.

Security experts warn users to beware of scams or malicious computer viruses like malware.

The Pirate Bay's website was updated yesterday, and now displays a waving pirate flag instead of a "page not found" message.

Even as these pirate sites refuse to die, the Singapore Government is looking into other ways to combat online piracy.

The amended Copyright Act, which took effect on Dec 10, will let content owners seek High Court orders to get ISPs to block websites that "clearly and flagrantly infringe" copyright.

The key targets of the Act are torrent websites like The Pirate Bay that allow users to download pirated material for free.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Law said: "The recent amendments to the Copyright Act facilitate private enforcement by allowing rights holders to more effectively obtain court orders to disable access to pirate websites in Singapore, while safeguarding the interests of network service providers and website owners."

But whether or not the amended Act will be effective in eliminating online piracy remains to be seen.

Technology lawyer Bryan Tan, a partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay, said: "With technology being what it is, there will be more and more sites that offer such content. It will be a slow and arduous task to block every site like this."

lesterh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 23, 2014.
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