Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Death of the EZTV site

EZTV.it was a site that listed in a very simple interface the latest TV shows in the English language, together with links to their torrent or magnet links. It was very easy to use and, as opposed to other similar sites, was selective in bringing you the best link for a TV show. You didn't get a billion different torrents for an episode of a TV show, you just got the low resolution and high resolution versions and sometimes the repacked or fixed versions when the first upload was defective. It was almost ad free, as well.

Well, lately some strange things have happened and it seems to me that there is more than meets the eye in the entire story. It started with the eztv.it domain being abandoned after the intervention of the Italian authorities. EZTV were planning to change the domain to a more amenable country, like Switzerland. That happened in January.

It didn't take long until someone bid for the domain name in auction and in March the eztv.it site was back, but under a different management. For a while they were content to proxy the new EZTV site (eztv.ch), in a site that looked exactly as the old one. As you can see from the link above, the new guys actually wanted to "manage" EZTV, getting money from the torrent link business, while doing nothing than own the domain. Novaking, the guy who fronts the EZTV group, refused any deal and so, after a while, torrent links started redirecting to ad sites.

It gets even more interesting, as somehow - and I admit domain name auctioning is not something I am an expert in - the eztv.ch domain was also captured by the same people who got the .it domain. As of now, there are no official EZTV sites anymore, both eztv.it and eztv.ch are impostor sites and with a horrible quality of service.

We have to consider several factors here. First of all, Novaking is the nickname of a person that, as far as I know, desired to remain anonymous. Probably that is why it is easier for someone to seize domains like that if they are willing to pay money and even name themselves. Then there is the actual intervention of the Italian authorities. They seemed to be angry about a site that provided torrent links, but don't seem to have anything against an exact copy of that site bought money down and that intents to make a lot of money out of ads. What happened in Switzerland is less clear. Did Novaking just abandon the fight and ditched that domain as well because he thought the entire thing was too big a hassle or was there some kind of hostile takeover, just like with the Italian domain? And finally, you have the new registrar of the two domains listing a Dominguez Emmanuel Hernandez, with an address in the United Kingdom. As several cases in the past showed, UK is really against file sharing sites, even if they are just linking to illegal content.

As far as I can gather, it should have been more difficult, not easier, for an entity as Hernandez to do the kind of work that Novaking did. It could all be foul play from the authorities and/or the legal and commercial entities dedicated to fight piracy. Certainly they would not be shy to use the vague laws that govern the Internet to their advantage to hurt their adversaries who do the same thing. However, if that would be true, they would lose the moral ground for their supposed reason to fight against file sharing.

Of course, it may also be some sort of internal split and subsequent power struggle inside the EZTV distribution group. Maybe this Hernandez guy was an inside man all along and he decided he wanted more money from his work. However that doesn't sound all true either, as the quality of the work on the fake eztv sites is terrible compared to what it was before and the functionality of the site is not all there, like someone has copied the old EZTV site from the web and not having access to the source code. There are some tweets that mention the site having reverted to "ancient passwords", though, so maybe there was access to the database of the site, somewhere in the past.

The last speculation I have is that after losing the .it domain EZTV voluntarily sold the .ch domain. An IRC message on the EfNet #eztv channel announced the end of the Novaking EZTV era:

[2015.04.25 20:24 PDT] <@NovaKing_> it was fun running eztv. Hope you guys had enjoyed it. site has new owners now. farewell.

As you can see he uses the term "owners", which might suggest a sell.

Well, I am curious of what actually happened in this very interesting story, but as things are right now, I am not sure I will ever find out. TorrentFreak has posted a more detailed explanation of what happened: it was a dubious hack, involving snatching one's domain from under them, stealing their email and impersonating them with inpunity. One thing is certain: you should not use the eztv.it and eztv.ch sites anymore, as well as search the net using the eztv brand name. In the best case scenario, you would be supporting an immoral act of web site theft and impersonation, and in the worst you would be using a web site handled by antipiracy organizations.