The site– put up "as a joke," by three friends who give their physical address as being in Antarctica, so far out of the way they have to use latitude and longitude rather than a ZIP code – crawls BitTorrent sites, recording the IP addresses of people downloading files and the files they're downloading.
Call up the site and it reads your IP address, searches its database and displays some files it thinks you've downloaded.
Writers at TorrentFreak and other content-wants-to-be-free sites (who have done deeper, more responsible reporting on SOPA and the overall copyright infringement-law-fight than many more mainstream sites), have been using it to embarrass their enemies.
Saturday they pegged members of the RIAA and Department of Homeland security as having illegally downloaded files from BitTorrent – a bit of hypocrisy, to say the least, especially for people at the RIAA, which has been ruthless in prosecuting and pursuing fines for alleged illegal downloaders.
TorrentFreakers would be the first to remind you that IP addresses and real addresses are not the same.
It's entirely possible someone else was spoofing the RIAA and DHS addresses.
It's possible the same thing happened at Sony, Universal, Fox and the French Presidential Palace, IP addresses for all of which TorrentFreakers said they turned up in the database.
It's the RIAA and DHS addresses that provide the richest irony, however, and the strongest slam against the assumptions the underpin SOPA and all the other overly energetic copyright-protection/consumer-punishment laws that get hearing time on the floor of Congress every time some big donors get up in arms about their content being downloaded without their express and individual permission.
On the RIAA specifically, TorrentFreak wrote:
All in all, quite an astonishing revelation for an outfit that wants to disconnect copyright infringers from the Internet.
For now at least, since the RIAA has lobbied hard for a nationwide piracy monitoring system much like YouHaveDownloaded.
In a few months millions of online ‘pirates’ will be monitored as part of an agreement between the MPAA, RIAA and all major U.S. Internet providers. Alleged infringers will be notified about their misbehavior, and repeat offenders will eventually be punished.
But will the RIAA be punished too? – TorrentFreak, Dec. 17, 2011
I'm guessing, given its insistence that others are punished, that the RIAA should be punished as well.
I'm also guessing it will be given a pass because the illegal downloads were "research" or "errors" or some other excuse the RIAA has worked hard to make impossible for others to use.
What actually should happen is that DHS and RIAA should investigate, confirm whether their staffers were downloading files illegally, and use that example to convince themselves they were overreacting all along, or at least trying to inflict on others a set of rules and punishments they find unreasonable even for themselves.