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TorrentSpy shuts down

BitTorrent blames "hostile" privacy and copyright laws in U.S. for leading it to shutter the popular search engine.

A prolonged legal fight with the movie industry has forced TorrentSpy, BitTorrent's popular search engine, to shut down.

"The legal climate in the USA for copyright, privacy of search requests, and links to torrent files in search results is simply too hostile," said a note on TorrentSpy's front door. "We spent the last two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, defending the rights of our users and ourselves... we now feel compelled to provide the ultimate method of privacy protection for our users - permanent shutdown."

In 2006, the largest Hollywood film studios accused TorrentSpy in a lawsuit of encouraging movie piracy. A federal judge ordered the company last June to provide the studios with user information found in its computer RAM.

TorrentSpy, often used by file sharers to find bootleg films, tried a series of legal maneuvers in an attempt to protect the anonymity of visitors. In August, the company cut off access to residents of the United States, presumably to avoid complying with the court order.

In December, the judge in the case found that TorrentSpy operators intentionally destroyed evidence in the case, making it impossible for the Motion Picture Association of America to get a fair trial. They had earlier been fined $30,000 for violations of discovery orders and were warned of severe sanctions if they continued to ignore the orders.

The judge ruled against TorrentSpy, which meant that all the company could do was argue over the amount of damages. From that point on, it appeared as if TorrentSpy's days were numbered.