Mumbai: The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has arrested and charged two unemployed men in their twenties with multiple copyright and money laundering offences connected to organizing a BitTorrent tracker site that is alleged to have facilitated the illegal distribution of millions of movies. A magistrate subsequently froze a bank account belonging to one of the defendants which contained US$35,066 (A$54,000). Investigations into other bank accounts continue.
The Australian Federal Police, assisted by investigators from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), conducted a search at the Brisbane home of the two defendants, seizing computers and related hardware which contained over two terabytes of data.
The arrests were made after a lengthy investigation by the AFP and AFACT into the site operator’s activities. Investigations have revealed that the BitTorrent tracker site, hosted outside of Australia, facilitated the sharing of copyright movies among its 400,000 international members, including thousands of VIP Members who paid up to US$6.5 (A$10) a month for access to direct downloadable media resulting in the site operators raking in excess of US$6,456 (A$10,000) per month. This would involve the transfer of over 10,000 terabytes of data, the equivalent of 14.3 millions of copies of movies and TV shows.
Commenting on the arrests AFACT director operations Neil Gane said, "BitTorrent is a legitimate and efficient software for sharing files but, like any tool, it can be misused. This case clearly demonstrates how damaging P2P piracy can be – sucking money from the legitimate production and distribution of movies thereby discouraging creativity and destroying Australian businesses and jobs."
Australian director/producer Andrew Traucki’s, whose film Black Water was being illegally shared on the BitTorrent tracker site, said, "I had put a huge amount of work into my feature film Black Water. Being a low budget film I didn’t get paid much and hoped to make some money for all my effort from the film’s sales. The fact that Black Water had been pirated and was online within days of being finished is upsetting. How are Australian film producers like me meant to make a living from our films if people pirate the film and watch it for free? I thank the Australian Federal Police for their outstanding work in putting a stop to the illegal activities of this group".
"We sincerely thank the Australian Federal Police for tracking down and arresting the operators of this illegal BitTorrent tracker site. Charging the defendants with both money laundering and copyright offences sends a clear and unequivocal message that the Australian government will not tolerate this illegal activity which is causing great harm not only to the Australian film industry but to film industries across the world" said Motion Picture Association president and managing director Asia-Pacific Mike Ellis.
Penalties for copyright crimes are a maximum of $39,020 (A$60,500) and/or five years’ jail per offence.