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I’ve written a bittorrent search engine too – and soon you can have it!

So, Bram Cohen (the inventor of BitTorrent) has invented a bit torrent search engine [via]. Which is good news, I guess, as it should help keep the bit torrent scene alive. As established bit torrent servers go down and new ones emerge, a search engine like this can act as the “central hub” – always linking to fresh torrents, removing dead torrents, and helping to keep the long tail of bit torrent alive too.

It’s a feature, a benefit (a requirement) I identified a while ago – you need a central consistent point which users know they can visit to find the latest content without having to worry which torrent sites are dead and which new ones are worth checking.

Which is why I started writing my own bittorrent search engine about 6 months ago. It’s been up and running for sometime. The problem is, it’s not available to the public. It’s called “Project Sofia” because I wrote it for Sofia (my bit-torrent loving girlfriend) – and she will be it’s only ever user. (There aren’t many girlfriends who can say their boyfriend wrote them a whole search engine just for them!) Check the screen grabs comparing to Project Sofia (it’s a bit uncanny how similar they look!): screengrab Project Sofia screengrab

I don’t believe it’s illegal to operate a bittorrent search engine because you aren’t hosting any copyrighted files. But this issue has never been argued in court, and so the various lawsuit threats have resulted in sites being taken down because the owner can’t or won’t defend their position in court.

With a search engine like Project Sofia you’re not even hosting the torrent, just linking to it, leaving you two steps apart from any copyrighted material. And even Google links to torrent files. This is the argument (last 5 pars, page2) Bram is using to run his search engine, and Ask Jeeves are backing him with adword-style sponsorship.

But, for many reasons I’ve decided I’m not going to launch Project Sofia as a search engine service. I work for the BBC, and clearly there would be a massive conflict of interest. I also have to admit I don’t have the balls to go through the hassle of defending a legal case – even if I believe I am within the law (plus the Digital Millienium Copyright Act doesn’t have jurisdiction in the UK anyway, and such a case would not produce a suitable “test-case”).

So, I’ve decided I’m going to make Project Sofia available as an opensource project for anyone to download and run on their own server! It’s the only way I can get my work out there without compromising my own position.

Watch this space.

Published in Tools