By Heini Järvinen

Torrentz.eu, one of the most popular search engines for file-sharing websites, was taken offline on for linking to contents that infringe copyright.

The site was taken down by the Poland-based registrar of its domain on 26 May 2014, after it had received a request from by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in the UK. However, only a day later the domain was restored and back online, supposedly due to legal complaints that the owners of the domain had sent to the registrar, even though the registrar has not officially responded to their letter.

Towards the end of 2013, PIPCU began to focus on disabling websites. It has been, as part of its “Operation Creative”, sending warning letters to the sites identified by copyright holders, as well as requesting registrars to suspend domain names – in the complete absence of any legal right to do so. According to the PIPCU spokesperson the reason for the suspension of Torrentz.eu was that the site had failed to comply and engage with the police after having been informed of the alleged criminality of their contents.

Torrentz.eu acts as a search engine for torrent files, and does not itself host material. It includes also other content, such as books released under “copyleft” licenses and installers for free open source software. The domain has been blocked since October 2013 by several Internet Service Providers in the UK, after the court order from the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI).

This case mirrors the EasyDNS case in the UK, where the City of London police sought to give itself the power to have domain names removed by domain name registrars. They threatened EasyDNS by claiming that its ICANN registration was in danger if they did not comply. The UK’s National Arbitration Forum did not agree and ruled as follows:

To permit a registrar of record to withhold the transfer of a domain based on the suspicion of a law enforcement agency, without the intervention of a judicial body, opens the possibility for abuse by agencies far less reputable than the City of London Police. Presumably, the provision in the Transfer Policy requiring a court order is based on the reasonable assumption that the intervention of a court and judicial decree ensures that the restriction on the transfer of a domain name has some basis of “due process” associated with it.

Torrentz.eu, tug of war on the domain (only in Italian, 28.05.2014)
http://punto-informatico.it/4056992/PI/News/torrentzeu-tira-molla-sul-dominio.aspx

Torrentz.eu domain unsuspended and back in action (27.05.2014)
https://torrentfreak.com/torrentz-eu-domain-unsuspended-back-action-140527/

File-sharing site Torrentz.eu taken offline by City of London police (27.05.2014)
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/27/file-sharing-site-torrentzeu-taken-offline-london-police

UK anti-piracy police take down largest torrent search engine Torrentz.eu (26.05.2014)
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/largest-torrent-search-engine-torrentzeu-taken-down-by-uk-antipiracy-police-9435167.html

With Operation Creative, police crack down on ‘ad-funded’ piracy (12.12.2013)
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-12/12/pipcu

UK ISPs block 21 websites in new bid to combat online piracy (30.10.2013)
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/uk-isps-block-21-websites-in-new-bid-to-combat-online-piracy-8912890.html