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Illicit Downloaders Repent with Piracy Payback

Have you downloaded movies and music from BitTorrent, peer-to-peer, or even through newsgroup servers? Feeling a bit guilty as other downloaders are smacked around with lawsuits and incredibly hefty fines? Australian website Piracy Payback, launched in January, may have the answer to those feelings, allowing visitors to make donations that head straight back to the copyright holders.

Drew K, the Australian man behind the website, told Ars Technica that the idea popped in his mind after he illegally downloaded a particular TV series from "the darker corners of the Internet." Feeling guilty, he decided to create a way to give back to the show's creators.

So how does it work? Visitors can donate a minimum of $5 through PayPal. Guilty souls merely choose which category fits the bill: Payback for Music, Film, Television, Software, Gaming, or All of The Above, submit the amount, and then hit the "Payback" button. The money thus go to "beneficiaries" that control copyrights or represent content creators.

Naturally, the public interest hasn't been "very high" according to Drew K, and currently 12-percent of the donations heads straight to him to cover site costs. He also added that many "beneficiaries" remain anonymous to prevent legitimizing illicit P2P use.

But while honoring content providers with a donation is an admirable move, it doesn't make downloaders exempt from legal action. "The service is designed to assist grassroots stakeholders detrimentally affected by digital piracy," the FAQ reads. "It does not act as direct restitution to any immediately aggrieved party."