Archery champion allegedly behind global piracy site shut down by Hollywood studios

The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence, was one of the films allegedly available on the torrent site.

The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence, was one of the films allegedly available on the torrent site.

A New Zealand archery champion was allegedly behind a global piracy site shut down by Hollywood studios.

A multi-million dollar lawsuit was laid against Auckland-based Yiftach Swery - who works as an app and website developer - in the Auckland High Court in October 12, 2015.

The lawsuit names six major studios as being party to the case, including Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal City Studios and Columbia Pictures. The studios filed a civil claim.

Yiftach Swery competed in the Archery New Zealand Championship last month.

Yiftach Swery competed in the Archery New Zealand Championship last month.

It is understood the matter was settled out of court less than a month later and that Swery, 23, signed a non-disclosure agreement with the studios.

READ MORE: Hollywood swoops on global piracy site in Mt Wellington

On November 10, 2015, Justice Susan Thomas issued a minute saying that she accepted "this was a case where it is appropriate to permanently restrict access to all documents on the court file, any part of the formal court record and any other document relating to the proceeding".

Swery attended Rosehill College in Papakura, where he was named sportsman of the year in 2009. He has represented New Zealand at archery since 2008, the same year in which he set a world record.

He also studied computer science at the University of Waikato, where it is understood he started YIFY Torrents, one of the world's most prolific release groups which pirated more than 4500 films.

It is understood Swery operated BitTorrent site YTS, which had 3.4 million unique visitors in August 2015 alone. The website enabled millions of people to download films illegally.

Despite the case briefly reaching the High Court, it was a civil matter and police were not involved in the investigation.

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A police spokeswoman said they were approached by a law firm, acting on behalf of several studios, who searched a Mt Wellington home in relation to a piracy case last year.

"They requested police assist with a civil search order they had sought and which was granted by the Auckland High Court," she said.

"Police sought legal advice and were advised that we could not assist with the entry or search and could only act if there was a breach of the peace or a threat to anyone's safety. To this end, we waited outside the property but left soon after the person was spoken to and there was not deemed to be any threat to public safety."

Swery's case was not criminally investigated. 


Last month, a judge ruled the internet mogul Kim Dotcom - along with three other defendants - were eligible for extradition to the US where they would face money laundering, racketeering and  breach of copyright laws.

Dotcom has appealed that decision.

It is alleged by the US that the founders of Megaupload, which they ran as a popular file sharing website, were knowingly allowing copyright material to be shared on a large scale.

Megaupload was said to be one of the most successful internet service providers in history, with more than one billion unique visitors before it was shut down in 2012.

Dotcom, whose home was raided by police and who had his assets seized in 2012, said the civil suit against Swery showed a "high level of hypocrisy".

"The difference is in my case I was never responsible for the users, but in this case he is the primary infringer. He was wilfully infringing but they let him go," said Dotcom.

"The hypocrisy is that this is a civil case. They didn't call the police, they didn't raid his home. His offence is bigger under the copyright law, mine was aiding and abetting. It's insane.

"The New Zealand government has spent $20 million on my case. In that case, there was larger infringements and they wanted it under the radar, that's why they settled."


YIFY torrents was set up in 2010. It supplied movies to be downloaded through popular torrent indexes like Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents.

The group focused on high-quality DVD rips and leaks, rather than or filmed-in-cinema or low quality videos. They managed to keep file sizes small without compromising video quality.

Along with their goal of pirating every major mainstream film, this attention to quality won YIFY a devoted following. A source with links to many popular torrent sites believed YIFY was the biggest provider of pirated movies in the world.

The website YTS was create in 2012, and allowed users to browse and download movies pirated by YIFY. It also allowed the group to make money by running advertisements, although the source said it was unlikely they made big money due to the low-value advertising most torrent sites attract.

YIFY videos were also picked up by the app Popcorn time, which allows users to browse movies, download them through a torrent swarm, and watch them. The group provided most of Popcorn Time's content.

The site went down in October 2015, and in early November the MPAA confirmed it had shut it down.

 - Sunday Star Times

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