The administrator of several Italian file sharing websites has been arrested after selling on the information of some 300,000 of his users. While the sites themselves were shut down last November, with such a number of users between them, the owner who went by the online pseudonym of Tex Willer, was able to generate 37,000 euros from allowing advertisers to access the database of user information.
The backlash in the file sharing community has been an interesting one. Most of the time, file sharing sites and their owners, that have been targeted by copyright lobbyists and the authorities – like MegaUpload and Kim Dotcom – receive masses of sympathy from the public. However in this instance, users feel betrayed. Most file sharing admins believe not in spreading illegally distributed material – though accepting that their services are used for that – but the proliferation of information, and they’ll often defend their users to the hilt, assuming that they ‘share’ the same beliefs. However, in this instance, Tex Willer has not only made enemies of the authorities, but file sharers too.
As well as breaking local and international law by selling on user information, the admin has also been charged with tax evasion, forgery, fraud and (unsurprisingly) copyright infringement. These sorts of charges are often added to those arrested for running file sharing sites, so their legitimacy is still in question at the moment, but the tax evasion part at least seems likely. It’s difficult to pay taxes on advertising revenue based around a site which is legally questionable.
Overall Tex Willer is said to have profited by nearly 600,000 euros since the sites began operation in 2007.
KitGuru says: While the moral and legal aspects of file sharing are debatable, selling on user information is deplorable. Unfortunately with the current legal status of online file sharing, it opens it up to all sorts of unscrupulous people attempting to simply make a quick buck.