Five down, two to go… *TorrentFreak
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A man from Denmark has been convicted for playing a key role at Asgaard, a private torrent site that shut down in 2020 following intense legal pressure. As well as co-founding Asgaard, the 47-year-old was associated with NordicBits, DanishBits and ShareUniversity. His criminal conviction marks the fifth of this investigation, the fate of two other men remaining to be decided.
Large public torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG, and YTS, attract massive international audiences. By focusing on a specific niche, smaller torrent sites can also generate significant traction.
Some sites focus on a particular type of music, for example, while others may focus on movie genres such as horror or anime. Since most torrent sites typically offer content in English, private torrent sites aimed at speakers of a particular language can be hugely successful, which is especially true for those that appeal to Scandinavian users.
Copyright holders operating in Denmark, where only six million people speak Danish, view private torrent sites as unfair competition in what is already a relatively small market. So, in partnership with their colleagues from the Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, it was decided to permanently shut down all local torrent sites.
Extraction of sites at the root
With the support of the Danish government’s IP SØIK working group, Rights Alliance took down DanishBits and NordicBits, two highly reputable sites that extend far beyond Scandinavia.
Deleting these sites sent a clear deterrent message, but instead of shutting down, private tracker Asgaard welcomed new members, many from the closed sites. A few weeks later, the previously emboldened Asgaard announced that it would also close, mainly to avoid staff being arrested.
The Danish police did not receive the memo and over the following months seven people were arrested. As of March 2022, four prosecutions have resulted in criminal convictions.
– Male, 50 years old: 4 months in prison, 3 suspended (June 2021)
– Male, 43 years old: 3 months in prison (suspended) plus community service (February 2022)
– Male, 54: 3 months in prison (suspended) plus community service (March 2022)
– Male, 35: 3 months in prison (suspended) plus community service (March 2022)
As the image above shows, earlier this year three of the seven had yet to face court. Following a process last week, there are only two left.
Fifth criminal conviction
On November 3, 2022, at the Aarhus courthouse in Denmark, a 47-year-old man became the fifth Asgaard member to be sentenced since its closure in late 2020. He is said to have co-founded Asgaard in May 2019, with Rights Alliance describing him as one of the brains of the site.
In addition to purchasing Asgaard’s domain name, asgrd.org, he helped cover costs, make decisions related to its operations, and also acted as “press officer”. Rights Alliance reports that between 2015 and 2020 he was also associated with DanishBits and ShareUniversity.
“The penalty is 3 months probation and 80 hours of community service, forfeiture of 2,282 DKK [US$305.00), a desktop PC and two external hard drives, and compensation to the Rights Alliance of DKK 35,000 [US$4,670]“says Rights Alliance.
“During the time of the crime, Asgaard had 23,000 users and provided access to at least 15,000 files containing copyrighted works, many of which were shared before their digital premiere.”
And then there were two
After sentencing last week, only two of the original seven suspects have yet to appear in court. An updated graphic from Rights Alliance indicates that an Asgaard moderator and another person have yet to close their deals.
Rights Alliance director Maria Fredenslund says the convictions are the result of hard work to take down all Denmark-based file-sharing sites.
“It is extremely satisfying to see that the masterminds are now – one by one – condemned for their criminal enterprise. We are dealing with a number of funders who were not only systematic in their violations of the rights of Rights Alliance members, but also well organized,” Fredenslund says.
“They were dynamic, in the sense that if one service was closed, they continued their illegal activities on another. Every sentence in this vast affair emphasizes that despite the masterminds’ dynamic organization and methods, they will be arrested and held accountable for their violation. »
According to Jan Østergaard, special prosecutor at the National Special Crimes Unit (NSK), the conviction sends a message to operators and users of the site.
“It is very satisfying that, based on a solid and focused effort, NSK has brought another mastermind to account,” Østergaard said.
“This sends a clear signal to both Danish hacker masterminds and users that the focus is on this type of crime.”
NSK was established on January 1, 2022. Among other things, NSK aims to fight complex organized crime and financial crime.
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