BitTorrent hubs that publish lists of movies, TV shows and other free downloads suddenly went dark this weekend, in a major victory for Hollywood that highlights vulnerabilities in technology behind the world’s busiest peer-to-peer network. Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) launched a series of worldwide legal actions, aimed at people who ran the infrastructure for BitTorrent networks being used to distribute movies and other copyrighted materials without permission. The MPAA’s actions have put pressure on a short list of large Web sites that had served as hubs for the BitTorrent community and that had operated for months or even years. Many of those sites have now vanished almost overnight, including the SuprNova.org site that was by far the most popular gathering point for the community, serving more than a million people a day, according to one academic study.
The disappearance of the big sites is unlikely to eliminate BitTorrent swapping altogether, but it does bring to a close an era of operating in the open without fear of legal reprisals. The resulting shift to the underground will likely make files harder to find, as traders move onto private networks or smaller communities, file-swapping insiders said.