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Microsoft Funds a Russian BitTorrent Killer

A startup that has a method for killing BitTorrent swarms gets a cash infusion from Redmond.

A Russian startup developer is claiming to have a new method for tracking and shutting down any trading of copyrighted works on BitTorrent, and they are getting help from Microsoft to keep the development going.

The company, called Pirate Pay (a play on The Pirate Bay, the prominent piracy site for BitTorrent users), recently conducted a test in its native Russia. Last December, the film "Vysotsky. Thanks to God, I’m Alive" hit Russian theaters, and for one month, Pirate Pay blocked downloads of torrents of the movie.

In those 30 days, Pirate Pay technology blocked 44,845 infringed copies of the movie from being downloaded. Users could not download it even though it might be in the search engine of a torrent network like Pirate's Bay. No word on how many versions of the film got through, however.

"Vysotsky" was one of the first films released by Walt Disney Studios Sony Pictures Releasing (WDSSPR), so Pirate Pay now has the attention of two of the largest entertainment companies in the world as well.

In addition to funding from its native Russia, Pirate Pay received a $100,000 investment from the Microsoft Seed Financing Fund last year. The company consists of seven people and is based in Skokovo, the home to Russia's attempt at its own Silicon Valley, so it gets tax breaks in addition to its investor funding.

Pirate Pay works by charging between $12,000 and $50,000 to protect specific movies. It will check existing BitTorrent swarms and attacks swarms that contain the protected content, making it impossible for people to share files. The company won't say how it works, obviously, but it appears to masquerade as legitimate peers and sends down garbage information.

This sounds a lot like MediaDefender, a company that charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to send out fake torrent files, and in the end all it managed to do was attack an innocent company, Revision3, with a Denial of Service attack. Hopefully our Russian friends won't screw up so badly.

The idea started three years ago when the three co-founders and co-developers were building a traffic management solution for Internet Service Providers. The technology worked so well it was able to stop BitTorrent traffic. "After creating the prototype, we realized we could more generally prevent files from being downloaded, which meant that the program had great promise in combating the spread of pirated content," CEO Andrei Klimenko told a Russian publication.

The "Vysotsky" experiment was educational, said Alex Klimenko, CTO of the company. "Not everything passed smoothly in the beginning. We faced a difficult task to make a working prototype into a full service for a very short time. And in the process we gained invaluable experience, our technology has become literally a hundred times better and now Pirate Pay is able to block counterfeiting in torrents much better."

We'll see.

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