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BitTorrent hubs close after ISP raid

Australian music industry association says 50 hubs closed after a raid on Swiftel Communications.

The Australian music industry's antipiracy unit said that 50 file-sharing hubs were closed down this week following a raid on Internet service provider Swiftel Communications.

On Wednesday, Swiftel--which allegedly owns and operates computer infrastructure that hosts Web pages using BitTorrent file-sharing software--was ordered by the Federal Magistrates' Court to take down any sites containing copyright material.

Michael Speck, a representative of the antipiracy unit, said a survey carried out by the group's computer forensic experts revealed a dramatic reduction in the number of active file-sharing hubs. Speck is general manager of Music Industry Piracy Investigations, which is part of the Australian Recording Industry Association.

Speck said 50 of the 63 Web sites that fell within MIPI's "investigative threshold" were shuttered.

In addition, he said, there was a noticeable decline in the number of Australian users accessing the allegedly illegal hubs.

Speck also said that comments now appearing on major file-sharing Web sites suggest that hub owners were aware of the legal action against Swiftel and have decided to act by shutting down their file exchanges.

He said one of the sites under surveillance recorded 1,606 users on a particular day shortly after the raids--but had become completely inactive within a week.

The "effect of last week's raid represents an important development in the fight against Internet piracy in Australia and proves that the Internet service provider industry is prepared to take copyright issues seriously," Speck said.

MIPI expects more hubs to cease operations next week. The 13 remaining hubs have been warned to comply with copyright legislation or risk court action.

"They will continue to be targets," Speck said. "We will get to them in due course if they don't shut themselves down. We take the view that the raid on Swiftel was sufficient warning for the 63 targets. The remaining (active hubs) don't get further warning."

Kristyn Maslog-Levis of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.