TorrentSpy begins weeding out copyright content

As company battles accusations that it aids copyright violators, TorrentSpy founder launches filtering system.

TorrentSpy, the torrent-file search engine accused by Hollywood of aiding copyright violators, plans to remove links from its search results to pirated content using a new filtering system.

FileRights is an automated filtering system created by some of TorrentSpy's founders, including Justin Bunnell, according to a statement released Monday. The technology uses "hash" values to automatically remove links to infringing works from search engines that subscribe to the service.

The move comes as TorrentSpy fights a lawsuit brought against it last year by the major film studios. TorrentSpy suffered a legal blow earlier this month when the judge hearing the case ordered the company to begin tracking user activity.

The privately held company has appealed the decision. Should it lose, Ira Rothken, TorrentSpy's attorney, has said the company would likely shut down access in the U.S. before giving up information about users.

In an interview, Rothken acknowledged that using hash marks to identify copyright content is not foolproof. If a file is altered then the system may not recognize it.

Filtering doesn't necessarily mean an end to the hostilities between Hollywood and the torrent search engines. In 2001, file-sharing system, Napster, launched a filtering system that failed to thwart illegal file sharing enough to satisfy the music industry or the courts. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel called their efforts, which according to some accounts only caught half of the illegal files being shared, "disgraceful." The judge eventually ordered Napster to stay shut down until it could block all infringing materials.

It should be noted that illegal file doesn't occur at TorrentSpy or the other torrent engines. People use these sites to locate torrent files that can be downloaded via the file-sharing program BitTorrent. In the lawsuit filed by the film industry in Feb. 2006, TorrentSpy is accused of being a powerful tool for those who pirate intellectual property.

FileRights works like most video filters. Copyright owners handover information about their films or TV shows and the system detects any files containing unauthorized copies. Links to those files are automatically removed.

Any copyright owner, Web site or search engine is welcome to subscribe to the service for free, according to the company's statement. According to Rothken, one of TorrentSpy's competitors, IsoHunt, has agreed to use the filtering system as well.

"With FileRights we used the community networking power of the Web to automate and aggregate the entire copyright filtration process," Bunnell said. "Torrentspy now uses the FileRights cooperative filtering process to filter search results on its popular search engine."

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