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Feds Use The Force Against BitTorrent

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-05-26

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When "Star Wars Episode II: Revenge of the Sith" became available for download hours before the theatrical release, the Force departed from users of the increasingly popular BitTorrent technology. Federal agents have launched a Death Star styled offensive on file sharing website owners and users.

Feds Use the Force Against BitTorrent
Feds Use the Force Against BitTorrent

The campaign, kicked off yesterday with 10 search warrants and raids in eight states and the shutdown of Elitetorrents.org, is the first criminal enforcement action against BitTorrent propagators. The effort is put forth by a coalition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Reminiscent of Napster's deluge of legal troubles, BitTorrent is a popular and free method of downloading movies, songs and video games, developed by genius developer Bram Cohen. It is a revolutionary, innovative, and useful technology created by the 29-year-old Washington college dropout.

The original software was developed, in Cohen's words, "on a laptop in [his] living room using off-the-shelf-tools," and now accounts for 35% of all Internet traffic. The popularity of BitTorrent is due to design elegance, allowing the popularity of a large file to aid the speed and efficiency of downloading. Using the volume of downloaders as division of labor to decrease bandwidth, BitTorrent users can acquire large popular files quickly.

Cohen's intent was pure enough, as he found away for people to publish their own creative works on the web for minimal or no cost. But the dark side had other intentions for it.

The definitive closing chapter of the "Star Wars" prequel was available six full hours before the release and within 24 hours 10,000 copies of the film had already circulated.

The target of the crackdown is on "first providers," which led to the termination of Elitetorrents.org, a BitTorrent based site. Government officials said that the copyrighted material available on the site was "virtually unlimited."

"Our goal is to shut down as much of this illegal operation as quickly as possible to stem the serious financial damage to the victims of this high-tech piracy -- the people who labor to produce these copyrighted materials.

Today's crackdown sends a clear and unmistakable message to anyone involved in the online theft of copyrighted works that they cannot hide behind new technology," said John Richter, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department.

Though the figures are disputed, US companies, like the Motion Picture Association of America, say that online piracy costs them billions of dollars a year.

Because of the decentralization of BitTorrent technology, illegal downloading is difficult to control. Experts say the best defense is criminal and/or civil action against individual users.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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