Anti-piracy head fears deadly attacks

  • 2009-05-27
  • By Adam Mullett

DEADLY BATTLE: In Lithuania the fight against illegal online piracy has become life threatening, according to one prominent campaigner.

VILNIUS - Despite recent arrests and criminal proceedings against those caught plotting his death, Lithuanian Anti-Piracy Association (LANVA) President Vytas Simanavicius said he still fears for his life as he works to shut down illegal piracy rings and file transfer Web sites.
"I think they can do it at any time. I go through Lithuania a lot and they could do it any time. I am not afraid, because I have been working more than 10 years and it isn't the first time they [piracy rings] have wanted to kill me. The first time was in 2004 or 2005," he told The Baltic Times.

Police recently arrested several suspects in relation to threats made against Simanavicius, but he said that those threatening him have stepped up their fear campaign aimed at making him desist in his effort to stop piracy in Lithuania, which has one of the highest penetration levels in the world.
"We were looking actively for piracy on the Internet and the market. When we said that they would need to compensate our members for losses, they sent me letters saying they would kill me and in the near future," Simanavicius said.

"They sent me pictures of me at my house and my phone numbers and other information. The police did a raid and seized some computers and there are two criminal cases now against these people."
One of the criminal cases involves users of the popular website Linkomanija and the other was the administrator of a torrent Web site.

Torrent Web sites, which facilitate user-to-user file sharing thus allowing large files such as movies and television shows to be downloaded freely, are at the forefront of online piracy.
After LANVAs announced a planned crackdown, people suggested collecting money to have the organization's president killed. An earlier plot to blow him up as he drove his car was foiled by police.
"Spare a thought for the LANVA president. His organization has to tackle an unprecedented level of media piracy, which online has reached 99 percent," one blogger on the Web site TorrentFreak wrote.

"Of course, like many anti-piracy bosses, Simanavicius is making more than his fair share of enemies with his activities, even though his job seems almost impossible and his results limited at best," the blogger added.


Simanavicius said that piracy equates to huge losses in the country. "We calculate billions of litas of losses from piracy. In one torrent site, there are hundreds of thousands of users and every game or movie or music [can be] download[ed] thousands of times."
"About 400,000 people in Lithuania use torrent sites to download. There are 48 torrent sites and also 32 direct connect sites."

Simanavicius works with businesses and government to inform them of the importance of the protection of intellectual property.
In an earlier interview with TBT at a conference in Lisbon, Tomek Bochenek, Microsoft's head of Central and Eastern European operations, said piracy was their main competitor in the region, rather than other companies.
Simanavicius said they are trying to shut them down, but some sites have moved to hosting outside the country.

Many Web sites have avoided being shut down by being hosted in other countries such as the Ukraine or Netherlands.
To add insult to injury, LANVA also had to deal with the embarrassment of having their domain name taken by BitTorrent site administrators before they registered it following a name change.