Two weeks ago, federal authorities seized and shuttered KickassTorrents (KAT), the world’s largest torrenting site. This week, Torrentz, the world’s largest torrent search engine, closed without notice or explanation. Two of the largest sites in piracy have blinked out—but that won’t speed piracy’s steady decline.
If you’re not familiar with Torrentz, it’s easiest to think of it as the Google of the torrenting world. And if you’re not familiar with torrenting, it’s a file-sharing technique that spreads data across multiple computers and is often used for piracy, but not always! Torrentz didn’t host files itself; it instead acted as a search engine, directing people to sites (like KAT) hat facilitated actual peer-to-peer sharing of pirated content. That made it a major presence not just within the torrenting community, but on the Internet at large; before it shut down, it was 186 on web-ranking service Alexa, putting it ahead of sites like Weather.com and Flickr.
So what happened? WIRED’s attempts to reach Torrentz’s operator, who goes by the handle “Flippy” on the site, have been so far unsuccessful, though he (or she! it’s unclear) did reportedly tell torrent-tracking site TorrentFreak that he would not be commenting further.
For one thing, it doesn’t seem to be the result of direct legal action. And Torrentz’s role as a search engine presumably gave it legal cover, since it did not host or directly enable the exchange of files. And while Torrentz had received scrutiny from the MPAA and RIAA in the past it complied with DMCA takedown requests by removing links to pirated content.
That’s a far different model from KAT. When KAT founder Artem Vaulin was arrested in mid-July, the criminal complaint alleged that KAT cost copyright holders millions of dollars by not only enabling free downloads of first-run movies, …