Weekly News Roundup (August 7, 2016)
You might be hearing a lot less from me during the next month. I’m taking a much needed vacation, and while I may still enjoy complimentary hotel Wi-Fi from time to time, these things are hardly reliable at the best of times. And who wants to do work on their vacation?
So this will most likely be the last WNR until sometime in September. See, it’s not all bad – I get a vacation, and you get a vacation from reading my inane drivel. A win, win!
Before then, here’s the news for the week.
Another week, another major torrent site shuts down. This time, it appears to be on the site’s operator’s own volition, or at least that’s what it looks like based on the limited information we have right now. Torrentz has decided to shut its doors, but has provided information, or even a proper farewell message. Instead, visitors are met with pretty much the same homepage as before, but when they try to use any of the site’s functions, a new message reads: “Torrentz will always love you. Farewell.”
A closer inspection of the homepage also yields one important change – an updated statement which reads “Torrentz was a free, fast and powerful meta-search engine combining results from dozens of search engines” – note the use of the past tense!
So the question remains why was Torrentz shut down. Legal pressure from rights-holders have always existed for the site, despite Torrentz not actually hosting any torrent files. But as was the case with KickassTorrents and other high profile take-downs, rights-holders and law enforcement usually like to make a big deal of it, and this doesn’t seem to have happened here. It could be that the operators of the site were made aware of pending legal action, or were worried about a KickassTorrents style investigation into their operators, and decided to take the proactive step of shutting the site down. Or it could just be because those running the site decided they no longer wanted to do it, and considering the number of fake torrents, impostor sites that have sprung up lately, who could blame them?
Speaking of impostors, the demise of KickassTorrents has led to a surge of them, each claiming to the new official home of the torrent site. The most popular of these “new” KAT sites claims to have obtained a copy of the site prior to its demise, and are now running it with new content. But upon closer inspection, this does not appear to hold true. Instead of being a mirror, the new KAT is actually using data from The Pirate Bay, with a KAT looking skin over the top. Multiple users, and news site TorrentFreak, have confirmed that the search results on this new KAT site are identical to the results on TPB.
While a KAT mirror with TPB content is hardly the worst thing in the world, it’s unclear if this will always be the case. Many may remember when popular TV torrent site EZTV was “taken over” – the site at first seemed to serve the same content, but reports of injected malicious content and ads soon surfaced. The same could happen with the “new” KAT. Or the present situation could settle to become something akin to the isoHunt clone situation, where the site continues, legitimately (well, for a torrent site), but with all new people running it – in a “the site died, but the spirit lived on” kind of thing.
For the record, there are sites that do seem to run a (no longer updated) copy of the KAT database, but users should also be weary of these too.
Whether a new king of torrenting arrives or not, it may all be moot if the latest plan by rights-holders comes to fruition. There are new calls for operating system makers, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, to put in a “kill switch” for pirated downloads, or to block them from being downloaded in the first place. This kind of OS level block would be the holy grail of technology based anti-piracy, and if it worked as promised, it could make domain seizures, ISP warnings and the whole she-bang unnecessary (of course, the issue of streaming sites will remain unsolved, but not everything can be streamed).
But it’s unlikely any one of Apple, Google or Microsoft, let alone all three of them, would be willing to do something like this. It would be fraught with false positives, and could lead to legitimate files from being downloaded, or worse, irreplaceable files being deleted.
That’s it for me until September. I hope you enjoy your break from me, even though I will definitely miss all of you (sniff, sniff). Talk to you again when I’m back!