TorrentSpy was a popular BitTorrent indexing Web Site. It tracked torrent files (which were hosted externally) and provided a forum to comment on them. It also integrated Digg-like user-driven content site ShoutWire's feed into its front page. In August 2007 there were more than 1,000,000 torrents indexed with thousands of new torrents indexed every day.
The Motion Picture Association of America filed a lawsuit in February 2006 for TorrentSpy facilitating copyright infringement as many torrents on its site were copyrighted films. In December 2007 the court ruled against TorrentSpy for "widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence and have provided false testimony under oath in an effort to hide evidence of such destruction." On March 24, 2008 facing further fines for not cooperating with the court, TorrentSpy shut itself down.
On May 7, 2008, a federal judge ordered TorrentSpy to pay the Motion Picture Association of America $110 million for alleged infringement of thousands of copyrighted film and TV shows. In a four-page final ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper entered the multimillion-dollar judgment against TorrentSpy parent company Valence Media as terminating sanctions for destroying evidence related to the case. Cooper also issued a permanent injunction against the Web site, which shut down March 24. The MPAA, which represents the Hollywood studios, filed suit against TorrentSpy in February 2006, claiming that the site's torrent files were illegally uploaded. "This substantial money judgment sends a strong message about the illegality of these sites," MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said. "The demise of TorrentSpy is a clear victory for the studios." Whether the MPAA will collect the $110 million from TorrentSpy remains to be seen. Court records show that Valence and TorrentSpy principals Justin Bunnell and Wes Parker have filed for bankruptcy.
In July 2005, searches for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were blocked "due to the request of the copyright holder, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA")". This limitation was later removed However, the ability for a copyright holder to request the blockage of a particular search query remained.
In March 2006, the site layout went through some changes, each category of a particular TV show were removed and also movie categories were radically changed and merged together under a Video section. The forum administrators only explained that the categories have changed, but not why.
In August 2007, TorrentSpy began denying access to United States users and international users using US-based ISPs. In response, the MPAA filed documents calling TorrentSpy's denial of access "another illegitimate attempt by defendants to evade authority of this court and the May 29 order", and asking for sanctions. The tracker also reported that they were forced to handover all download logs to the RIAA. There were many ways to get to the tracker in the U.S by using a web based proxy but many people were scared of being caught. The ability for users to make comments on individual torrents was also disabled at this time.
On October 2007, a former TorrentSpy associate, Robert Anderson, said that the MPAA paid him $15,000 for inside information about the website. He was also able to hack into TorrentSpy's e-mail system and hand over confidential information to the MPAA. Even though MPAA admitted in the court having bought the inside e-mails, justice ruled that they contained no business secrets, nor that there would have been anything illegal in the procedure.
"Friends of TorrentSpy,
We have decided on our own, not due to any court order or agreement, to bring the Torrentspy.com search engine to an end and thus we permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008.
The legal climate in the USA for copyright, privacy of search requests, and links to torrent files in search results is simply too hostile. We spent the last two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, defending the rights of our users and ourselves.
It was a wild ride,
The TorrentSpy Team
'Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order [...] and the like.' - Justice William O. Douglas"
Several days after the shut down of TorrentSpy, former employee Jason Hughes introduced his own bittorrent site movieTorrents.
TorrentSpy has been ordered to pay $110m (£56m) in damages to the Motion Picture Association of America for copyright infringement.