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TorrentSpy shuts down in the U.S.

Under siege by Hollywood, the company bars American residents from the site., the BitTorrent tracking site facing a copyright lawsuit from the motion picture industry, is shutting down access to users in the United States, the company said in a statement late Sunday night.

The barring of U.S. residents by TorrentSpy comes as a U.S. district judge is expected to rule any day on whether TorrentSpy must turn over its user information to the Motion Picture Association of America. That group filed a civil complaint against the company last year accusing TorrentSpy of violating copyright law.

"TorrentSpy's decision to stop accepting U.S. visitors was not compelled by any court," according to a statement from the company. "Rather, it arises out of an uncertain legal climate in the United States regarding user privacy and the apparent tension between U.S. and European Union Internet privacy laws."

The company also said that because its servers are located in the Netherlands, the site will remain accessible to users outside of the United States.

Although TorrentSpy doesn't host any pirated movies on its site, the search engine helps users find unauthorized copies, the MPAA alleged in its suit. TorrentSpy has argued that the company has many legitimate uses and is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA provides safe harbor for Internet service providers and does not hold them responsible for unlawful acts committed by their users.

The MPAA declined to comment on TorrentSpy's decision.

Ira Rothken, attorney for TorrentSpy, said Monday that the decision to shut off U.S. residents will not affect the company's appeal of a recent magistrate judge's order that it hand over user information from the RAM on the company's computers.

"This is a wake-up call to citizens and Internet users that their privacy isn't protected as well as they might have thought," Rothken said in an interview with CNET "Google, Yahoo and other search engines should be very concerned. One day these attacks on privacy will likely affect them."