TorrentSpy, one of the largest BitTorrent search engines, has ceased operations. According to Justin Bunnell, administrator and owner of TorrentSpy, the decision was made out of a desire to protect the privacy of its users - not because of any legal influence.
"We have decided on our own, not due to any court order or agreement, to bring the Torrentspy.com search engine to an end and thus we permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008," a post on TorrentSpy.com reads.
"The legal climate in the USA for copyright, privacy of search requests, and links to torrent files in search results is simply too hostile. We spent the last two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, defending the rights of our users and ourselves."
TorrentSpy has been engaged in a protracted legal dispute with the MPAA since 2004. During this time, TorrentSpy has ventured down various avenues in an attempt to convey legitimacy. In early 2006, TorrentSpy considered opening an online distribution store. The proposed store would initially focus on files such as program updates, patches, and other smaller files. Eventually, Justin had hoped to integrate a music and movie distribution store with TorrentSpy.
TorrentSpy also attempted to appease the movie industry by automating their torrent delisting process. In a move that terrified many BitTorrent users and did little to settle the nerves of the movie industry, Bunnell opened FileRights, a tool which basically allowed rights holders to point and click to offending torrent files.
"With FileRights we used the community networking power of the Web to automate and aggregate the entire copyright filtration process," Bunnell said. "Torrentspy now uses the FileRights cooperative filtering process to filter search results on its popular search engine."
When the legal situation with the MPAA began heating up, TorrentSpy blocked access to US users. Bunnell justified this move as an effort to protect the privacy of the end user, who he felt could be exploited by the movie industry if TorrentSpy were compelled to divulge any server information.
"If no searches are possible then there is nothing the MPAA can demand from TorrentSpy about searches that will breach user privacy," Justin told Slyck in August of 2007.
Despite the failed endeavor to woo the movie industry and a policy that blocked US access, TorrentSpy remained among the most popular BitTorrent sites. Like anything else, its day has come, and many BitTorrent users will undoubtedly look back fondly on their old TorrentSpy friend.