2009 – A ZeroPaid Year in Review – Part 1 of 3

2008 was an interesting year in file-sharing and 2009 didn’t necessarily disappoint. There was plenty of ways to look at it, but there is one way one can look at the year – eventful. ZeroPaid reviews 2009.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes


2009 kicked things off with a bang with the ever ongoing Australian plan to filter the internet. The news at that time came with the revelation that the internet filtering plan would be mandatory for everyone with no opt out. Opposition parties of the government called the Australian plan to filter the internet offencive to parents. The German government announced similar plans to filter the internet. In the United States, it wasn’t a plan that went quite as far as to filter the whole internet, but one of the US ISPs did begin to throttle FTP, UseNet and P2P traffic.

There was also the news that seemed to be a repeating theme these days as well. News surfaced that Hollywood was breaking profit records. At that time, it was in overseas profits.

Meanwhile, there was big news about the RIAA when they fired MediaSentry, an anti-filesharing organization that observers say botched several investigations on alleged file-sharers. It seems to be interesting for that to happen while the RIAA was getting heavy in to a legal fight with a Harvard Law professor in what would become one of the more dramatic file-sharing cases the year had seen. The story continued to make headlines with the RIAA blaming the professor for dragging out the case. After attempting to block the broadcast of the case in question, a judge permitted the broadcast of the file-sharing case. It would seem ironic that the RIAA would refuse the broadcast of the case given that they advocate so heavily on educating the public about these issues. The irony and controversy was amplified when the RIAA later attempted to block the broadcast of the trial claiming that it would unfairly benefit the defendant. The judge, in an interesting turn of events, granted a review on broadcasting the trial.

RIAA was also busy trying to get US ISPs to disconnect alleged file-sharers. Unfortunately for the RIAA, the ISPs fought back, hesitant on, among other things, losing customers.

Later on in January, it was discovered that after promising that it would finally stop their lawsuit campaign, the RIAA filed even more file-sharing lawsuits.

The year also started with a major news story about what many might call the moment DRM was in serious trouble as a viable business model for selling music. iTunes announced that they would finally begin selling DRM-free music.

January’s eventfulness continued with the beginning developments of the MPAA vs what would probably be the legalities of selling a DVD back-up utility in the United States.

Another noteworthy development was WebSheriff bringing down one-click hosting blog RLSLog, though it didn’t take long before the website was brought back up.

The so-called “three strikes law” was a major story all year long and beyond and the year started off with the British government saying that it won’t consider a three strikes law. It was that story that triggered massive pressure from major copyright companies aimed directly at the UK government to change their mind. Meanwhile, it seemed that an Irish ISP was more willing to cave to pressure and agreed to start going along with a three strikes law.


News spilled over into February with Vuze calling on the FCC to look in to Cox throttling p2p traffic. While questions were swirling about blocking BitTorrent, Irish ISPs also agreed to block BitTorrent tracker sites.

The Harvard Law professors trial continued to be in the headlines in February with news organizations calling for the file-sharing trial to be broadcasted because the case was in the publics interest.

The British government seemed to still not be giving in to pressure to mandate a three strikes policy when the Digital Britain report was issued.

Meanwhile, TorrentSpy appealed a ruling won by the MPAA because the owners believed that it shouldn’t be mandated to violate users privacy.

After releasing their album online for free, the a case study was done on the Nine Inch Nails method of releasing music to the public that concluded that this was the future of the music industry. It continued to show that not all artists believe in suing music fans and many other tactics deployed by the major record labels.

More news surfaced that trials would begin on the Australian governments internet filtering plan. Things would later heat up with one professor infamously remarking that an unfiltered internet has no place in a democracy. Electronic Frontier Australia was quick to fire back saying that the professor was misrepresenting the issue. By the end of the month, more politicians in the Australian government saw that the plans to censor the internet wasn’t that great of an idea.

The ever famous Pirate Bay Trial started in February and it cemented the name “spectrial” given that a victory seemed to be pretty much a guarantee given the case built up against it. On day two, when news came that half the charges were dropped, many observers found the trial to not only be a shoe-in victory for ThePirateBay, but the copyright industry’s case was becoming more like a farce. Day 3 of the trial revolved around the fact that users, not the site admins, were responsible for what is placed on the site. On day 4, ThePirateBay was accused of purposeful crime on a grand scale, ignoring how the website actually worked in the first place. On day 5, Peter Sunde took the stand to answer some pointed questions by the prosecutor. On day 7, prosecutors began altering their charges on ThePirateBay admins. On day 8, a record executive took the stand saying that ThePirateBay was responsible for their supposed woes and refuted arguments that file-sharing has had a net positive effect on the music industry. On Day 9, a professor argued that there was no link between filesharing and music sale losses.

February also saw a relentless campaign by the copyright industry to tarnish Canada’s reputation. One of those entities was the IIPA which claimed that Canada should be placed on a priority 301 watch list because of movie piracy. While the effort would prove ultimately successful, it led many experts to realize that the watch lists could not be trusted given the anecdotal decision to put Canada on the watch list in the first place. It would seem like an interesting point of view given that there were revelations surfacing that Canadian ISP bandwidth growth fell by 45%.

The three strikes law theme continued with wide-spread protest in New Zealand where websites were blacked out because of the censorship potential of the legislation because the legislation is easily dubbed “three accusations and your out”. Meanwhile France finalized plans for a government three strikes agency.

Another story of note was that after Wikileaks published an extortion letter issued by Davenport Lyons, the organization responsible for sending out thousands of P2P lawsuits, the company then threatened to sue Wikileaks claiming that the letter was protected by copyright law.

There was also another sign for Swedish citizens that foreign entities were encroaching on to their countries political landscape when the government approved an expansion on police powers to target filesharing.

February ended with a bang when the French governing political party (UMP), the party who was leading the charge for implementing a three strikes law in France, was sued for copyright infringement. Their plan to offer a “symbolic” 1 Euro payment didn’t exactly go over very well.


The beginning of March saw the end of the prosecutions closing arguments for ThePirateBay on day 11. After watching the whole trial, pretty much every observer thought the admins of the BitTorrent site had a guarantee to winning in the trial due to how badly botched the prosecutions arguments were. Meanwhile, outside the court, there was major pressure for ISPs to block the site including countries like Norway which refused to block the website. Back in the court on day 11, the defence made their closing arguments for the defence was being made.

March saw the continuation of the theme that the MPAA was enjoying ever increasing profits as well.

Then, in spite of claims that the RIAA would stop suing music fans, the RIAA continued filing lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

The three strikes law theme of 2009 continued with revelations that the French three strikes law would cost $40 million annually. Meanwhile in New Zealand, many users were relieved to find out that after weeks of widespread protests, the government backed down from plans to implement a three strikes law. Still, that didn’t stop South Korea from implementing a three strikes law.

There was also news in the scene where Swedish police raided a Sunnydale server. Prosecutors said that the server was the source of all the material in spite of the large userbase that actually uploaded to the site in the first place.

With the UK under pressure and starting to show signs of caving in to big industry demands, British artists became vocal and compared prosecuting file-sharers to putting toothpaste back in the tube.

In the US, legislation was introduced to prevent accidental file-sharing.

Australia’s filtering plan got way more heated when ISPs started to refuse to take part of the ridiculous plan to filter the internet once they discovered that the filters broadened to include things outside of child pornography.

There were also many developments that showed the legitimacy of filesharing including a record label distributing content via Mininova.


April began with more news that the MPAA continued to break record profits though insanely claims that it’s nothing to apologize for and it needed stronger copyright protection to protect the industry anyway.

April also say a change in music consumption habits as they downloaded both legitimately and illegitimately less and are resorting to streaming music more.

The three strikes laws made headlines again with France passing their controversial three strikes law. The law garnered the support of U2s band manager. When all seemed lost, there was a surprising defeat for the French three strikes law when French MPs went on vacation, allowing the defeat of the legislation. Meanwhile in the European Union, the EU-wide three strikes law hit a major roadblock for a second time with the law simply being voted down. It seemed to be much easier, though, for Taiwan to pass the three strikes law though. Towards the end of the month, France saw the three strikes law make it back to parliament with an embarrassed president vowing that the legislation would pass this time. Meanwhile in the UK, British prime minister signalled that a three strikes law was still not going to happen. Opposition towards the three strikes law continued to mount in France as the French arts community revolted against the three strikes law.

VPN’s popularity grew particularly with ThePirateBay’s VPN service hitting 113,000 users. Some point out that anti-filesharing laws are still futile because technology will always be a step ahead of authorities and lawmakers.

The Pirate Bays result of the trial was greatly anticipated. Almost everyone was betting on an innocent ruling, but virtually everyone was shocked to find out that in spite of such an error filled prosecution, the judge ruled that ThePirateBay admins were guilty anyway. Outrage ensued. ThePirateBay then went on record to say that the site would live on. Still, the guilty verdict was so stunning and outrageous, there were signs emerging that the verdict would have a major impact on the European Elections. In the mean time, UK ISPs ended up blocking ThePirateBay because, they say, the site had adult content on it. While some ISPs caved to pressure, others like the Swedish ISPs refused to block ThePirateBay. Back at the trial, after the guilty verdict, lawyers for the defence smelled something funny and discovered that the presiding judge was a member of a pro-copyright organization. This led to further outrage over the BitTorrent sites trial. Protests went so far as to create a website called ThePirateGoogle. The website was quickly blocked by Google, but the site was more about proving a point rather than create a functional tool for users to find torrents on ThePirateBay. Google was not amused and eventually asked people to stop comparing them to ThePirateBay. Whether or not there was a stigma that Google didn’t want, lawyers pointed out that ThePirateBay’s legal demise could endanger the search giant. Artists came out to support ThePirateBay on the grounds that the ruling against the admins was questionable. Meanwhile, US representatives called the guilty verdict “significant positive progress”, further proving to many that the US was heavily involved in the trial in spite of not really having much legal jurisdiction in the country. The political fallout was severe as The Swedish Pirate Party’s popularity soared to the point of people predicting the party winning seats in the EU parliament.

Mininova, in the mean time, would make their last major milestone of 8 Billion downloads as their court date loomed.

In the US, the court case revolving around the MPAA and RealDVD was heard by a judge, commencing an interesting court case surrounding the legitimacy of selling a DVD backup utility in the US. Yes, this is still 2009.

Web filtering fever spread around the world with German government commencing their web filtering plan – a plan that saw the exponential growth of a movement to stop web filtering in Germany. The filtering debate went so far as to have German book publishers demanding to block Rapidshare. Meanwhile in Australia, the country that seemed to have started the movement for governments to try and seize control of the internet, a public forum was started that allowed Australian citizens to have their say on the matter of internet filtering.

April also saw one of ZeroPaid’s most popular articles on the site. In the United States, the major ISPs rolled out push polling to try and block a cheaper alternative for internet connectivity via municipal broadband. The story gained the attention of so many, that the legislation to stop the ISP was eventually shelved. The debate around it saw an interesting debate between people who believe that the government should stay out of the market and those that believe that ISPs have abused a oligopoly to continually raise prices of broadband while still having the quality of service to continue to degrade.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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