Legal Drama Around P2P File-Sharing [Part I]

by Koka Tarini Siddhartha

The inspiration for making this post must be attributed to the recent arrest of Artem Vaulin, founder of the infamous website, KickassTorrents. His arrest gives us the opportunity to look at a few cases surrounding file-sharing, leading to this two-part post. In part one, we give you an introduction to P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing networks.

Why was Vaulin arrested?

Artem Vaulin, a thirty-year-old Ukrainian, was arrested a few weeks ago by Poland on behalf of the United States – which requested his extradition – for offences ranging from “conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement” to “conspiracy to commit money laundering”. Ironically, he was arrested based on records provided by Apple after he made a legal iTunes transaction, which they then used to cross-reference the IP address from which he also logged on to KickassTorrents’ official Facebook page.

What is P2P file-sharing all about?

P2P file-sharing is a system by which two or more people share digital content (often books, videos, music and games) with each other, often without having to go through a centralized server.

There are two kinds of servers which facilitate the exchange of digital media – centralized and decentralized servers. In a centralized server, the distribution and sharing of media takes place via a server that can control what goes where and to whom. On the other hand, a decentralized server has no definite distribution server which means there can be no specific source identification; instead, individuals communicate and exchange files with each other directly.

…but what does P2P file-sharing have to do with KickassTorrents?

Well, it has everything to do with KickassTorrents, which would be rendered useless without this peer exchange system. However, we must digress here to give you more clarity on the developments in the field of P2P file sharing prior to Vaulin’s arrest.

A few P2P file-sharing fundamentals –

BitTorrent and FastTrack are essentially protocols, similar to HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) which we all use on a regular basis for common internet functions – to access our email, social media sites and most importantly, to google. You can access websites over HTTP, while BitTorrent and other similar protocols make use of torrent sites (websites) in conjunction with torrent trackers (servers) and clients (computer or handheld applications).

Torrent sites, trackers and clients together help you engage in file-sharing over a BitTorrent network. Torrent sites (like KickassTorrents or The Pirate Bay) are websites which provide you a point of entry into the list of participants in a torrent stream (the swarm). Trackers maintain dynamic databases of multiple torrent swarms to facilitate data exchanges between participants, notably hosting none of the digital content themselves. And finally, your BitTorrent client (an application like μTorrent, Vuze, or Transmission) consults with the tracker and exchanges data with members of the swarm, to download the content of the torrent onto your hard drive.

While downloading files, you are called a peer. A peer becomes a seeder when you continue uploading even after the download is completed. A peer becomes a leecher if you only download and do not bother uploading the file to other users.

Hopefully, protocols, trackers, clients, peers, seeders and leechers now make a little more sense. Let’s take a trip down memory lane all the way from Napster to KickassTorrents

click the image below for the full tableTorrent Table

We’re going to let you mull over this table for now. In part two of this post, coming up shortly, we’ll tell you more about the relevance of these cases with respect to KickassTorrents.

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