Once a staple of the file sharing community, second only to the so popular even your grandmother has heard of it, Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents had become the next best place to go for your freeloading fix of audio files, DVD rips, games and great as well as not so great quality cam recordings of the latest Hollywood movies (Yes, we have all sat through these at some point, squint eyed, pretending the 144p pixelated mess was “fine cos it’s free” and you waited six hours for it to download). And when the Pirate Bay became the whipping boy of the file sharing world and ISPs began to rampantly block access to the file sharing site, swathes of users migrated to the next best thing, Kickass Torrents, pushing it to prominence as the most popular p2p bit-torrent site in the world.
So, where the hell did it disappear to?
Seized. You could say it was only a matter of time, with the precedent that was made when Pirate Bay was made an example of. Earlier this year, in July, The Kickass Torrents domain was appropriated by the United States government. At the same time, those behind Kickass Torrents took the proxy servers offline. So, after hopping from server to server in an attempt to outrun the inevitable, in one fell swoop the whole operation was wiped from the face of the earth after a prosperous eight year lifespan (the criminal investigation into the site and its owners has purported that the site made approximately $12 million per annum through advertising revenue alone).
What’s more, following the hard line approach that the United States government has been taking to file sharing, the alleged owner of Kickass Torrents, Artem Vaulin, was himself seized and taken into custody under charge of a four count indictment placed by the US authorities.
A native of Ukraine, Vaulin is to this day being held in a Polish cell after being recently refused bail. This heavy handed approach follows on from the zero tolerance policy that was given maximum publicity in the Pirate Bay case. While the legality of punishing an individual for what is essentially an open, non local, decentralised network is woolly, this hasn’t blunted the knife of those who pursue the demise of peer to peer file sharing networks.
Are the torrent links still available? Somewhere? Somehow?
Kickass Torrents is dead. Finito. Met its maker. Consigned to history. Supposedly, Katcr.co is currently rebuilding the site, but for the moment exists only as a forum. Progress updates are posted on the site from time to time, and things are looking promising.
As for right now – There are sites out there using the Kickass Torrents logo and displaying what look like the ex site’s torrent links, and they appear to be being frequently updated too, but don’t be fooled, these sites are in fact thinly disguised links to Pirate Bay torrents just waiting to maraud your browser with pop ups and redirects.
What are the alternatives now Kickass Torrents is no more?
The Pirate Bay, Extra Torrent, TorrentLeech, RARBG, idope, 1337x, Zooqle, Extra Torrent are all active and offer good sized databases of active torrent links. Be prepared to be swamped with pop ups and frustrating redirects to complete a torrent search, particularly with the P B proxy sites.
It would be prudent to anticipate that it is just a matter of time before these sites also get squeezed once the authorities get around to them, so don’t get too reliant on one site for all your needs.
There are many invite only trackers out there, but as the name suggests, you can’t just walk in and get the goods, and a lot of them have caps on the number of simultaneous users. Generally you need to meet certain specific requirements before you are allowed to join, or have a friend on the inside who can supply you with an invite to get you in.
If you mainly used Kickass Torrents to find movies and TV shows, you can find most of what you have been missing at streaming sites such as putlockers.ch or 123movies.is Again, it can take a bit of patient pop up killing to find a stream of watchable quality, but they are there if you take a bit of time to look for them.
Most music can be found on YouTube these days. Sure, it’s not the same as having your own library accessible offline, and the quality isn’t comparable, but it does its part providing an easily searchable resource that lets you find even the most obscure tunes from yesteryear to satisfy a nostalgia fix.
What does this mean for the future of free downloads?
Well, it’s looking pretty bleak for supermarket style one stop shop downloading. The recording industry lobby has really had a hard on for file sharing and has been doing a pretty successful job of crushing torrent sites and stamping on the remains. The frequency of reports from end users’ receiving cease and desist notifications and copyright complaint letters for torrent uploads has also hiked in recent months. Some say these have no teeth, are all bark and no bite, but for many it is hassle that they wouldn’t want to risk getting caught up in.
That said, the very nature of file sharing is its’ non-locality. It started underground, and right there is where it will continue to prosper. Stamping out highly visible, household name sites with hundreds of thousands of users is a completely different kettle of fish to eradicating private trackers, tackling vpns, usenet etc.
Change is afoot, that’s for sure. But don’t expect torrent sharing to come to a crashing halt. Copyright enforcement and the internet is akin to a game of splat the rat, whack a mole… to stretch the metaphor, it’ll likely be a perpetual game of cat and mouse that will continue for the lifetime of the internet!