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File Sharing Web Site Shut Down

Prosecutors shut down the Torrents.ru web site on Thursday after accusing Russia's most popular BitTorrent tracker of breaching intellectual property rights.

Domain registrar Ru-Center blocked the site after being requested to do so by Moscow's Chertanovsky district branch of the Investigative Committee.

A statement on the registrar's web site said the domain had been blocked, as prosecutors had launched criminal proceedings against the site. Torrents.ru is suspected of violating an article in the Criminal Code, allowing for a punishment of two years in prison for violations of intellectual property rights.

"We have taken several dozen sites offline in the past for pornography or extremism, but this is the first time we have done it for [violating] intellectual property rights," said Andrei Vorobyov, a spokesman for Ru-Center. He cited Ingushetia.ru, an opposition news portal accused in 2007 of inciting interethnic hatred, as an example of another domain that was taken offline on orders from the authorities.

BitTorrent trackers facilitate the sharing of files, including films and music, among users by connecting users with hundreds of other computers, which collectively transfer the needed file to the downloader's computer.

Torrents.ru took the news in stride Thursday night, announcing a new address for its torrent service and instructing users on how to switch over to the new site.

The web site said users hoping to continue sharing files would have to indicate a different tracker (a server which connects downloaders with other users that have the needed file) or download the files from the site's new domain, Rutracker.org.

Users of the service were circulating a petition to President Dmitry Medvedev on the web site's forum Thursday night, calling on him to reopen the web site and prosecute the investigators, who they said overstepped their authority and hurt more than 4 million users.

Torrents.ru is Russia's largest torrent service, ranked by Alexa.com as the 13th most-visited site in the .ru domain.

The Investigative Committee could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Pirated media content has been a contentious issue during Russia's WTO accession, and AllofMP3.com, a major music downloading web site, was forced to close that year after several court proceedings and a copyright infringement lawsuit.

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