BTjunkie wasn’t the first bittorrent site of course; there were plenty of others in the download arena before it made a name for itself. It was one of the best known however and regular users or browsers will have been surprised to see the following message on screen when visiting the site last week:
It can’t be a coincidence that the closure comes just a few weeks after the apprehension of the owners of Megaupload. While Megaupload was a different type of filesharing arrangement, it seemed likely that the founders of BTjunkie saw the writing on the wall. No legal action has ever been taken against the site but similar bittorrent sites such as thepiratebay.org and others have all been on the receiving end of hostile threats from the MPAA, the RIAA and the U.S. Trade Representative. Perhaps the founders just wanted to walk away with their hands clean or maybe they have something else up their sleeves.
Other bittorrent sites will quickly fill the gap of course and pick up the slack. For well-established sites the extra traffic may well come as a welcome bonus. What may be happening is a gradual change in the way file sharers go about their business. The point at which we know something major is going on is when thepiratebay.org is finally bullied out of business. In anticipation of this, large distributed networks already exist far from the prying eyes of the music and movie industry lobbyists. Untraceable and untrackable, they will of course also become conduits for more unsavoury and illegal material.
As the U.S. attempts to exercise jurisdiction far beyond its borders, website developers in western countries will be more and more unwilling to risk their own freedom and the mantel will be taken up by those in countries the U.S. cannot reach.