Just a few days ago we discussed several strategies that can be employed to take down or hurt sites that are associated with online piracy. One of those strategies is pursuing the ad-networks of these sites, in order to cut off their revenue streams. Another is to target domain registrars and push these services to disable access to the sites.
In a recent case filed at the Massachusetts District Court both these strategies were used by book publishers Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons. The two publishers filed a case against the Clicksor and Chitika advertising networks and the domain registrar Enom’s Whois Privacy Protection Service. The defendants were chosen because all provided services to Pharmatext.org, a site that offered pirated e-books.
Instead of going after the people behind the site itself, the publishers chose to sue the advertisers and registrar, and this hasn’t been without result. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns has now issued a preliminary injunction which orders Whois Privacy Protection Service to reveal the identity of the Pharmatext owner, including his or her bank accounts. In addition the registrar “shall take all steps necessary to disable the website,” and prevent the domain from being transferred, according to the injunction.
The site’s advertising networks, Clicksor and Chitika, have further been ordered to stop any outstanding payments to the operator of Pharmatext.org. The networks are also prohibited from doing business with the operator of the site, either in relation to Pharmatext.org or any other copyright infringement related site that he or she may start in the future.
As far as we are aware, this is the first case where advertising networks have been prohibited from providing services to a site that is accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Last year there was a case where Disney and Warner Bros. went after the advertising company Triton Media, but this outfit was believed to be more heavily involved in the day to day operations of several ‘online piracy’ related sites.
The current ruling against the advertising networks and the registrar undoubtedly set a unique precedent which may lead to more of these cases in the future. Going after the registrar turned out to be an effective tool to get a website offline quickly, which Pharmatext.org now is. As suggested earlier, we will probably see these strategies being used by anti-piracy outfits against torrent sites at an increasing rate, instead of suing the operators of these sites directly.
The preliminary injunction