Operating a pirate site is not without risk. Those who get caught risk millions of dollars in damages, multi-year prison sentences, or even both.
To avoid that fate, many sites prefer not to poke the proverbial bear. With dozens of high-profile shutdowns in recent years, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is the biggest bear there is in the piracy landscape.
DonTorrent Stands Out
ACE is well aware of all large pirate sites, so hiding isn’t really an option. Instead, most sites simply try to stand out less than the rest, a strategy that doesn’t apply to one of Spain’s most popular torrent sites, DonTorrent.
With millions of visitors, DonTorrent is one of the larger pirate sites in the region but getting users to the site isn’t always easy. Spanish ISPs are required to block DonTorrent, so the site regularly rotates to fresh domains.
DonTorrent currently has over 100 registered domains and also offers a censorship-free Tor version. To inform followers about its most recent new home, it uses a dedicated Telegram channel, which pops up for all new visitors.
Taunting the Anti-Piracy ‘Don’
The photo that accompanies the Telegram invite link may not immediately ring a bell with everyone, but those in the know recognize Jan Van Voorn’s likeness. Van Voorn is the head of ACE and MPA’s Chief of Global Content Protection.
Van Voorn’s photo, with an added pirate hat and crossbones, is also present in the site’s official logo now. Apparently, the site is not afraid of drawing attention, even though this type of mockery is likely to make ACE even more determined to find its operators.
This isn’t the first time that DonTorrent has openly featured the ACE chief. The torrent site previously listed Van Voorn as the site’s owner and is now upping the ante.
Needless to say, ACE is working behind the scenes to find those responsible for the site. For example, a few weeks ago the coalition obtained a subpoena that required Cloudflare to hand over the details of the admin behind Dontorrent.cat, and there have been similar attempts in the past.
Thus far this hasn’t resulted in any effective enforcement actions, suggesting that the torrent site doesn’t have any sensitive data at Cloudflare. But ACE is not an outfit that gives up easily. According to Van Voorn, DonTorrent is indeed on its radar but the group didn’t have much more to add at the moment.
Messing With OSINT Investigators
DonTorrent is well aware of the potential risks involved but seems unfazed by it all. Speaking with TorrentFreak, one of the people involved with the site notes that OSINT investigators are circling the site as well.
For example, an IP crime investigator from a Belgian company, located close to one of MPA’s branches, sent money to DotTorrent’s Paypal address, presumably fishing for information. Whether MPA or ACE were involved in this is unknown, but the torrent site laughed it off.
DonTorrent also shared an example of a Spanish investigator who apparently tried to obtain IP-address details via email. When DonTorrent privately confronted the person via social media, the OSINT expert blamed it on an infected server.
For the Lulz (and Some ‘Netflix’ Money)
Needless to say, the site is playing a high-stakes game that has an asynchronous payout. It can only be lost once.
In addition to taunting anti-piracy forces for fun, the site also generates revenue through advertisements. These are not the nasty popups found on some pirate sites. Instead, the income is ironically generated indirectly through legal streaming platforms.
DonTorrent is an affiliate for StartGaming, a service where users can purchase shared accounts for legal streaming services. Whether Netflix, Disney and HBO are happy with this is doubtful.
It’s not clear how password-sharing crackdowns will affect this business model but, for now, it helps the torrent site to pay its bills.
“We don’t make money through popups, malware, or pushing intrusive advertising. What we have is a deal with an external store that we take a percentage of the user’s purchase in their store,” our DonTorrent contact says.
The revenue helps to pay the server bills but it’s not the site’s goal to make big bucks. Instead, DonTorrent says that it is mostly a hobby project. While that may be true, it certainly is a risky one.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.