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P2P uploader hoaxes leading BitTorrent blog

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A German record label has been forced to deny it wants people to pirate its music after a blogger cooked up a story that it had uploaded its entire repertoire to Pirate Bay.

The story was first published by the BitTorrent fan blog Torrentfreak and written by its founder "Ernesto". His sole source for the fanciful tale, of how the founder of electro-industrial label Dependent Records had invited Pirate Bay users to plunder its artists' catalogues, was the notes accompanying each of the torrent tracker files. They read:

Hello, my name is Stefan Herwig. I closed down my record label >>Dependent Records<< for good. But since I want my music to be heard by the people out there, everything I have ever published is now available on >>The Pirate Bay<<.

This is a LEGAL torrent!

I am not asking you to give, I want you to take!

Unfortunately, the "stefan_herwig" of Pirate Bay is not the Stefan Herwig of Dependent Records. The morbid tabloid joke that some stories are "too good to check" was apparently true for Torrentfreak when it came to the hoaxer's invitation to take without giving.

"This move from Dependent Records seems to be a bit odd," "Ernesto" instead mused to his audience of Digg users.

The Real Stefan Herwig has spoken out against the effect he believes internet piracy has on independent music. When Dependent took the decision last year to stop releasing new music, he wrote: "We have lived for years now with the reality that much of our music is stolen, not purchased, and we have frankly had enough of it."

Real Stefan told The Reg today: "It's amazing that Torrentfreak did not check the facts at all. We couldn't do that [upload the catalogue] even if we wanted to, because the artists have rights to the music too." People who download Dependent music from Pirate Bay are still infringing copyright, he added.

Yet the myth was reproduced unchecked by several blogs and tin-pot "news" organisations, which prompted Herwig to ask "Ernesto" to correct the non-story and issue official statement on the Dependent Records website on Monday. It says:

The reaction of Torrentfreak.com founder and correspondent "Ernesto" was to note that since he has a full-time job, "doing extensive research is not always an option". He had apparently read news of the label's closing on the Dependent website and taken the Pirate Bay story at face value; the facts that the person pretending to be Stefan Herwig misspelled the name of the label in the original announcement, and that the official label website made no mention of this unusual offer, failed to raise any red flags with either Torrentfreak.com nor any of the other internet sites which reprinted the story verbatim.

"Ernesto" told us over email: "I've been emailing with Stefan back and forth, and have already apologized for any inconvenience I've caused However, I don't see his problem. I even said in the post that I wasn't sure if he was the real 'Stefan Herwig'.

"I did know that someone with the same name posted the torrents, I also confirmed that the label closed down. These two things, together with the fact that the entire catalogue was posted made me assume that it could be true." He described the statement on Dependent's website as "a bit childish".

Torrentfreak has not removed the story. Herwig said he "probably" won't sue, however. The blog may rue the boast on its "about" page that it is "referred to by the Guardian as 'more reliable than the BBC' - much read, often quoted". ®

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