New Anti-Piracy Watchlist Zooms In On File-Sharing Tolerant Countries

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus has just released its 2012 International Piracy Watch List. In addition to countries such as China, Russia and Ukraine, this year Italy and Switzerland make fresh appearances in the list. Both countries are accused of not doing enough to combat online infringement with the latter allegedly proving itself as a "magnet for rogue sites."

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC) has just released its annual report in which it criticizes countries that in their view simply aren’t doing enough to protect the intellectual property rights of American creators.

It will come as little surprise that the two nations topping the list are China and Russia, with neither country expected to get a clean bill of health from the West now or in the near future.

On file-sharing issues, China’s leading search engine Baidu was cautiously praised for coming to an agreement with rightsholders, a move that led to its removal from the USTR’s Notorious Markets list. Russia was again criticized for its lack of IP protection legislation which has led to “rampant Internet piracy affecting the global market.”

Ukraine, former home to the currently suspended Demonoid BitTorrent tracker, was also subjected to the usual criticisms with the note that instead of improving, things are actually getting worse.

“Ukraine is a hub for infringing content through peer-to-peer networks and hosted websites, and is home to one of the world’s most notorious pirate markets, EX.ua,” write the IAPC.

After local authorities took down the file-hosting service in January the site made an almost immediate return. IAPC say that the Ukrainian government bowed to public protest.

But while the watch list inclusion of the China, Russia and Ukraine trio will shock no-one, there are also two new euro entries – Italy and Switzerland.

“Piracy in Italy continues to hurt both Italian and American creators. To date, there has not been a sufficient legislative framework for addressing the problem, or clear leadership in developing one,” the report notes.

“Without substantial reforms, the piracy problem will continue unabated in Italy and the widespread perception will endure that illegal downloading is not harmful.”

In recent years Italy’s Guardia di Finanza (Financial Guard) has been involved in many file-sharing investigations (1) (2). It has also ordered a trio of prominent ISP-level blocks against leading BitTorrent sites, first against The Pirate Bay, then the now-defunct BTjunkie and most recently KickAssTorrents.

However, following the so-called Peppermint Jam case, Italy’s Data Protection Authority ruled that monitoring P2P users and collecting their IP addresses is illegal.

The IAPC’s complaints about the Swiss go even further, with the landlocked country accused of loose IP protection that makes it a magnet for, apparently, some of the world’s worst sites.

“Switzerland’s copyright law is inadequate, making it a home for rogue sites whose clear purpose is to facilitate and enable massive unauthorized making available of pirated material,” the report warns.

As noted by Ars, the first large site that springs to mind in Switzerland is RapidShare, but Daniel Raimer, General Counsel for the file-locker site, says he believes the report refers to another company.

“RapidShare understands that this action does not pertain to RapidShare,” Raimer said. “We continue to work with the content industry to mitigate copyright abuse and make our services as accountable and transparent as they can possibly be.”

The lack of clarity from IAPC appears to be relatively new. In previous years’ reports the caucus hasn’t shied away from naming sites. However, in recent months TorrentFreak has indeed noticed an upward trend of file-sharing related sites (BitTorrent, streaming and cyberlockers) appearing on Swiss-based hosting. The other possible objection from IAPC is the presence of the Razorback2 eD2K (eDonkey) indexing system which was subjected to huge raids in 2006 but later recovered.

The position on general file-sharing in Switzerland also appears to be a problem. IAPC notes that the country needs to “clarify that copying from illegal sources is illegal.” This is a reference to Swiss copyright law which contains a private copy exception but does not state that the copy has to be made from a legal source. This effectively legitimizes downloading and streaming of pirate content for personal use.

While the IAPC recognizes former watch list entries Canada and Spain as nations “in transition” due to their recent efforts to reform copyright law, neither country escapes completely. Both are encouraged to continue down a legislative path that will see greater protection for US intellectual property.

The full report can be viewed here.

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