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Unstoppable file-sharing network ‘Tribler’ spells trouble for copyright holders

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 7:46PM EST

Copyright holders thought they had scored a major victory last month when one of the biggest file-sharing networks in the world was shuttered. Megaupload had been responsible for an estimated 30% to 40% of all file-sharing traffic worldwide, but a recent study suggests that the network’s closure did absolutely nothing to slow piracy related to file-sharing. To compound matters, another network that has flown under the radar for some time has now been dragged into the spotlight, and it may pose one of the biggest threats yet to copyright owners and their content. Read on for more.

“Tribler” is a peer-to-peer file-sharing client that is completely decentralized. “The only way to take it down is to take the Internet down,” the software’s creator says.

The Tribler BitTorrent client has been in development for more than five years and according to the researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands who built it, it has experienced 100% uptime since it first launched.

Unlike standard BitTorrent clients that rely on torrent sites to find and download content, Tribler is based on true peer-to-peer technology that requires no intermediate servers. Instead, the client installed on users’ computers communicates directly with other PCs on which Tribler is running.

“Our key scientific quest is facilitating unbounded information sharing,” Tribler creator Dr. Pouwelse told TorrentFreak in a recent interview. “We simply don’t like unreliable servers. With Tribler we have achieved zero-seconds downtime over the past six years, all because we don’t rely on shaky foundations such as DNS, web servers or search portals.”

Though it took an extensive investigation and coordinated efforts across multiple continents to take down Megaupload and its founder Kim Dotcom, the task was simple compared to stopping the threat posed by decentralized clients like Tribler. Joe Morganelli, founder of copyright consulting firm Morganelli Group, thinks true peer-to-peer clients like Tribler will change the way BitTorrent is used, making it infinitely more difficult for authorities and copyright owners to combat piracy.

“With no central location it will make going after individuals so much more important,” Morganelli told BGR in an interview, though he acknowledges that this approach has not been terribly effective in the past. “The crusade against a normal individual has had very little effect since there are millions of people,” Morganelli continued. “With the central location, it makes for an easy lawsuit.”

Tribler is free to download and use, and its code is completely open source.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.