TorrentFreak: Comcast Threatening to Sue Over Porn 'Honeypot' Article

Aug 21, 2013 7:00 AM PST

UPDATE: A Comcast spokesperson responded to TorrentFreak, saying that an email threatening lawsuit was an "error": “[I] am replying to let you know that the cease and desist was sent in error, and you may disregard it. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” the email said.

LOS ANGELES — TorrentFreak in a published statement today said that Comcast is threatening to sue the tech news website for copyright infringement over contents of an article which revealed that Prenda Law was involved in operating a pirate porn "honeypot."

The honeypot was used, TorrentFreak, to lure and eventually file claims against peer-to-peer users who would purportedly download copyrighted porn titles.

"This revelation came to light after Comcast returned a subpoena linking the IP address of Pirate Bay uploader 'Sharkmp4' to the infamous law firm, and has since been published by several other news outlets since we broke the news," TorrentFreak operators said today.

The news website reports mainly on news of significant importance involving BitTorrent networks.

"It was an article like any other, we thought, but on Monday we learned that Comcast was not happy with our coverage. Through the brand protection company Cyveillance they sent a cease-and-desist letter for an alleged copyright infringement, demanding that we take the article offline, or face legal action."

TorrentFreak operators said that Comcast's  threats are clear: "If we fail to comply with the takedown notice within five days Comcast will file a lawsuit seeking immediate injunctive relief, compensatory damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs of the suit."

In addition, Comcast alerted the site's hosting provider, which is threatening to shut down its server, the operators said.

In the statement, TorrentFreak operators said that Comcast's email provides no indication of what the site has done wrong.

"It simply states that we infringed on Comcast’s copyrights without explaining what the actual infringement entails," TorrentFreak operators said.

Allegations over a Prenda Law honeypot arose in June when attorney Graham Syfert, representing a defendant accused of poaching porn on a BitTorrent network, said in a court filing that the law firm and a principal, John Steele, were running a honeypot based on an expert’s analysis over IP addresses based upon a report by BitTorrent expert Delvan Neville.  

According to Neville, many of the torrents in Prenda lawsuits originated from a user on The Pirate Bay called “Sharkmp4.”

Neville’s report describe many connections between Sharkmp4, the tracking company, and Prenda Law, including ties to a Comcast IP address to Steele’s GoDaddy account.

Neville said the same IP address is connected with Ingenuity 13 — one of the litigating porn companies — whose work was shared by Sharkmp4 before it was commercially available, Neville elaborates.

“It appears from all the evidence that John Steele (or someone under his control or with access to his GoDaddy account records with authorization to make changes to domain names) is the most probable candidate for the identity of Pirate Bay user Sharkmp4,” Neville said.

Since that piece was posted, TorrentFreak has published additional articles, including the one last week, on Prenda Law's alleged scheme. 

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