The BitTorrent search engine BTJunkie has shut down its website, the latest file-sharing site to take defensive action following law enforcement's shutdown of MegaUpload last month.
BTJunkie said the move was voluntary. "We've been fighting for years for your right to communicate, but it's time to move on. It's been an experience of a lifetime, we wish you all the best!"
The website, which started in 2005, was ranked by the file-sharing blog TorrentFreak fifth in a top 10 list of the most popular BitTorrent sites for 2011 based on traffic statistics collected by Alexa and Compete, both Web metrics analysis companies. A "torrent" is a small file that enables files to be shared on a peer-to-peer network using the BitTorrent protocol.
The decision by BTJunkie to shut down is perhaps one of the most drastic steps taken by a file-sharing site to avoid legal trouble. Other popular sites have also implemented changes to lower their profile.
The website FileSonic disabled file sharing among users, only allowing members to upload and download their own files. Another sharing site, Uploaded.to, temporarily blocked visitors with IP addresses inside the U.S.
MegaUpload's founder, 38-year-old Kim Dotcom, was arrested on Jan. 20 along with three other men. Dotcom is facing extradition to the U.S. after being indicted in January by a grand jury on charges including conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and conspiring to commit money laundering.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges MegaUpload and related sites generated US$175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than $500 million in harm to copyright owners.
The action against MegaUpload hasn't spooked the most defiant site, The Pirate Bay, which describes itself as "the galaxy's most resilient BitTorrent site." In 2009, four men affiliated with the site were sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay restitution to copyright holders. They lost an appeal in 2010 and then petitioned Sweden's Supreme Court, which last week refused to hear the case.