BitTorrent file-swapping networks face crisis

Core sites supporting file-trading communities go dark, in overnight victory for Hollywood and allies.

BitTorrent "hubs" that publish lists of movies, TV shows and other free downloads suddenly went dark this weekend, in a major victory for Hollywood that highlights vulnerabilities in technology behind the world's busiest peer-to-peer network.

Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America launched a series of worldwide legal actions, aimed at people who ran the infrastructure for BitTorrent networks being used to distribute movies and other copyrighted materials without permission.

The MPAA's actions have put pressure on a short list of large Web sites that had served as hubs for the BitTorrent community and that had operated for months or even years. Many of those sites have now vanished almost overnight, including the site that was by far the most popular gathering point for the community, serving more than a million people a day, according to one academic study.


What's new:
Many of the Web sites that served as hubs for BitTorrent file seekers have gone dark, including, which was the most popular gathering point.

Bottom line:
The loss of the big sites is unlikely to eliminate BitTorrent swapping altogether, but it does bring to a close an era of operating in the open without fear of legal reprisals.

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The disappearance of the big sites is unlikely to eliminate BitTorrent swapping altogether, but it does bring to a close an era of operating in the open without fear of legal reprisals. The resulting shift to the underground will likely make files harder to find, as traders move onto private networks or smaller communities, file-swapping insiders said.

"We do not know if SuprNova is going to return, but it is certainly not going to be hosting any more torrent links" to content, said a message posted over the weekend to the SuprNova site, which was no longer available Monday morning. "We are very sorry for this, but there was no other way, we have tried everything."

The fallout marks a substantial victory for the MPAA and its allies, which have sat on the sidelines for years as sites such as SuprNova openly set up shop as file-swapping indexes. Such locales became convenient if not indispensable destinations for millions of people seeking one-click downloads of TV shows, movies, games and music.

Over the past two years, BitTorrent has risen to become one of the most popular file-swapping tools on the Net, accounting for a majority of peer-to-peer traffic on ISP networks as of last summer, according to network monitoring firm CacheLogic. Because the technology was designed from the beginning to make distributing large files

efficient, much of this traffic was dedicated to full-length, high-quality movies and software.

Nevertheless, the creator of the technology, Bram Cohen, said he's not surprised at the latest developments. BitTorrent was always designed

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