Police Raid Russia’s Largest Porn BitTorrent Site
In 2010, Russian authorities seized the domain of the country’s biggest BitTorrent tracker, Torrents.ru, in copyright related action. Now, just over a year later, police have swooped on its sister site, Pornolab – Russia’s biggest porn tracker – and seized its servers. With the recent demise of two other huge adult trackers, it’s possible that Pornolab was the largest adult torrent site in the world.
For many years, when BitTorrent sites around Western Europe and the United States suffered legal pressure and were forced to look for new homes, fingers have pointed to the east. Russia is not exactly considered a market leader when it comes to copyright-related enforcement and neither is its western neighbor, Ukraine.
In February 2010, however, an event occurred which rocked the boat. Citing copyright concerns, authorities seized the domain name of Torrents.ru, the country’s biggest tracker with millions of members.
The site continues today under a new domain, Rutracker.org, with its troubles seemingly behind it. The same cannot be said for its sister operation, the adult torrent site Pornolab.net.
Despite being Russia’s 93rd most popular site, Pornolab chose to operate out of a datacenter in Ukraine. The authorities there say it was a huge operation, serving 2 million registered users. With the recent demise of Empornium and PureTNA, this may mean it was the biggest porn tracker in the world. In the last 24 hours, however, all that came to an end.
According to police in the capital, Kiev, yesterday their officers swooped on the site’s datacenter and seized its servers. Unusually for a case of this type, the complaints that led to this action were not related to copyright infringement but to the unlawful distribution of pornography.
The police are citing contraventions of Part 2 of Article 301 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine which covers crimes against children using the Internet – in this case the importation, production, sale and distribution of pornographic material without age restriction.
In addition to attempting to bring the operators of the site to justice, the police say that they will also try to identify Ukrainian users of the site. Due to the nature of BitTorrent – downloaders automatically upload too – they too are being accused of the unlawful distribution of restricted material.
In the past, Article 301 has been used by the government to shut down various publications deemed to be offensive, including literature aimed at the gay community. Punishments can extend from large fines to 5 years in prison.
Ukraine is also home to Demonoid, one of the world’s largest BitTorrent trackers. Unlike Pornolab, Demonoid expressly forbids the tracking of any adult-related content. It also goes one step further, probably to ensure it stays the correct side of the Ukrainian authorities, by banning all local traffic. Pornolab did not and according to estimates, up to 700,000 of its members called Ukraine home.
This is not the first time Ukrainian police have shut down a an adult themed torrent site. In May 2010, xsweet.net.ua was targeted for the same reasons and its 35-year-old operator arrested.