The story of the administrator of the tracker planted for uploading one movie
The warez scene has always existed as a thing in itself - releases should never have left their enclosed environment. At least that was supposed to be. But not all sceners agreed with this, for example, Scott McCausland, who organized a torrent tracker EliteTorrents about 10 years ago with a group of friends.
The tracker became one of the most famous, which turned out to be very dangerous, considering that Scott lived in the USA and registered a domain in his name. In 2005, an ad appeared on the tracker's website. It said:
This site is closed by the FBI. The owners and everyone who used it is under investigation. Distributing copyrighted material is illegal, even if you do it for free on the Internet.
Seeing this picture, many did not believe it, and decided that this was the work of hackers (the message looked so strange). Later it turned out that it was the result of D-Elite operation . Scott, like many others, was arrested and, after a year and a half of the trial, was sentenced to a real prison term.
Under the cut - a translation of an interview with him in July 2007, when he was just released, and briefly about how his future fate came about.
Tell us about the events before and after May 25, 2005, when a closing message appeared on your site.
We laid out Star Wars ... and then there was a game over. I woke up in the morning and saw an FBI statement on the EliteTorrents website. I thought, “Damn, we have a lid.” At that moment, I did not imagine that I could be their goal. I didn’t do many hands, just a couple of films. But one of them was Star Wars, yes ... And then one day at 6 in the morning I was awakened by the noise of those approaching the house: 6 FBI cars, 6 ICE cars (immigration and customs police) and two more, local police. They stopped by, confiscated everything, and so began my two-year-old saga.
What were the goals and objectives of EliteTorrents when it was created?
The goals were, like any other torrent site of those times - to provide as much content as possible (not necessarily exclusive) in the best possible quality. As far as I know (and I was one of the main admins), we had the best uploaders and the best administration, that's why we got Star Wars, and many other films, very quickly, if not faster than everyone.
You have been found guilty of making the distribution of Star Wars Episode 3. Did you think about the consequences of your actions when you made this decision?
1) I was found guilty of copyright infringement and criminal conspiracy to violate copyright.
2) Have I thought about the consequences of putting this movie out? I can’t say that today I think differently than on that very day. I am still firmly convinced that if I can share something, I must do it.
Didn't you know about lawsuits and other actions of the authorities against file-sharing networks and sites that took place then? Did you think EliteTorrents has copyright immunity?
It's not about immunity. We just could not stop. We were going to become the best tracker. And it seems to me that no one could compare with us. The actions of the authorities were attached to this as a matter of course. Of course, we knew what we were going for.
When you see other sites, such as Pirate Bay, taunting copyright, how do you feel?
I feel like they made a case in point with me. And after talking with the few who were arrested for company with me, I know they feel the same way. I don’t complain about how the feds treated me, but I don’t think I deserve it.
Authorities claim that server logs (which allegedly contain information about users) were confiscated. What can be contained in these logs, and how are they going to use them?
The servers did not store as much user information (as far as I know). They got email addresses, software logs, and all that stuff. Perhaps a list of IP addresses. They used logs to collect information, they needed admins and uploaders. So ordinary users have nothing to worry about.
Tell us what happened between your arrest and sentencing on December 19, 2006.
Well, the usual story. I lived in anxiety and was afraid to get a term. I tried to concentrate on my studies, not to lose heart. I stayed away from the scene and tried to stay away from my obsession. And then a fateful day came, I was sentenced to 5 months in prison and the next 5 months of house arrest.
You wrote on your blog that most of the convicts in your prison were for drugs. How did prisoners and / or security guards generally perceive that you ended up there for copyright infringement?
The prison was in Morgantown (West Virginia). This is the number 1 drug prison in the whole country. They have a 500-hour program for the rehabilitation of drug criminals, and they have a shorter time period (no such program is suitable for me). Be that as it may, it was generally believed among the guards and prisoners that my sentence went far beyond justice. They laughed at me, considered me a nerd. There were people who had been sitting for 20 years, and they didn’t like the fact that some people had gone there only 5 months ... nothing nice.
What advice would you give a person living in the US if he is going to open a torrent tracker?
I would not recommend anyone in the US keep trackers. I think, with the current state of things, this is an unjustified risk. Hold on to places like Sweden and other countries with less stringent anti-piracy policies.
What lessons have you learned from your experience?
I realized that the federals cannot be defeated. And although they stopped me, they can’t stop everyone, I was only a small player in the immense game. And it will never end, because they cannot stop it.
If you could do something differently, what would you change?
If I could change only one thing, I would not get involved in this business from the very beginning.
What restrictions have been placed on you during your 5-month house arrest?
I have an ankle bracelet; I am only allowed to go to church, work or school. Otherwise, I am attached to the house (150 feet from the monitor, controlled by a bracelet).
What do you think about peer-to-peer networks, file sharing and bittorrent?
About peering, I can say the following: I'm not a typical scener, I’m for P2P with two hands. I think that torrents are great. And it seems to me that the future lies with them. What is happening now is just the beginning.
What advice would you give torrent users who think that closed trackers and sites are safer?
There is no difference. No matter how good you are (and among us there are very good specialists), they will find you. With their unlimited resources, they can do anything!
After leaving prison and serving 5 months of house arrest, Scott's misadventures did not end. A “trial period” was set for 2 years, during which he was obliged to periodically report to the police, and all his online activity had to be monitored using special software that had to be installed on his computer. The problem was that he used ubuntu , and the tracking software was only for windows. The officer said so to him: “Either buy Windows , or say goodbye to the Internet.” They also wrote about this story then .
And in August 2009, the former EliteTorrents admin finally managed to feel like a free person. His life gradually improved, although he could not find a job. Then he decided to try himself in programming and now sells a couple of some simple applications in the App Store.
In conclusion, I would like to return to the last question of the interview, that "they will find everyone." The lawsuits continued for several years, 2 people received sentences, the rest escaped with fines and conditional imprisonment. But, despite the enormous importance of this case, and all the resources that the FBI threw into the investigation, the person who actually gave them the pre-release copy of the film was never found.