After obtaining government funding to protect the rights of mainstream music and movie companies, last year UK police began a campaign aimed at closing dozens of torrent and other file-sharing sites.
Many sites subsequently reported receiving letters from PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, warning that their operations had been scouted and deemed to be infringing.
While most site ignored the warnings, some inevitably felt the pressure and decided to quit while they were ahead. In the months that followed direct pressure on sites reduced when police began to concentrate on indirect measures, such as pressuring registrars to retract domains and advertisers to stop supporting sharing sites.
However, earlier this month police restarted their direct approach, sending threat letters out to the operators of torrent sites in an attempt to close them down directly. In at least one case the police have been successful.
Due to its coverage of sports including the NHL, NBA, soccer and Formula 1, The Sports Torrent Network (TSTN) was a site popular with fans on both sides of the Atlantic. With an estimated 20,000 userbase and its own ‘capping’ team, the site was certainly a fan favorite and possibly the largest site of its type. But now, after an unwelcome warning, the party is over.
Along with other sites, a little under two weeks ago TSTN received communications from the police which stated that the site’s operators could be committing crimes with serious penalties attached.
“Such activity is an indictable offense under the Serious Crime Act 2007 and is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment (two years for encouraging/assisting communication to the public; and ten years for encouraging/assisting distribution to the public),” the police explained.
“PIPCU has the lawful right to pursue action against you and against the thesportstorrentnetwork.co.uk website in order to prevent, detect and disrupt criminal activity.”
While the threats looked official enough, a more detailed examination of the correspondence sent to TSTN raised questions over its authenticity. As can be seen from the screenshot below, a clear spelling error was present in the title of the mail, which lead to concerns this may have been some kind of fake.
However, an additional error later in the email suggested that it was probably genuine. As can be seen under the highlight, it appears that police neglected to fill in a precise date instead of the placeholder text.
But errors aside, the TSTN decided that while it had been a good run, now was the time to thrown in the towel. The site is now permanently closed.
“We are sad the site had to go but feel it was the only option,” a staff member told TF.
As is often the case with premature site closures, TSTN’s members have nowhere to call home. It’s often overlooked that torrent sites double up as community sites so the loss of content is often secondary to losing contact with friends. With that in mind two locations have been set up for former TSTN members to stay in touch – over at Reddit and a dedicated discussion forum.
With calls from the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor to permanently fund the Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the shutdown of TSTN will certainly not be the last.