In their ongoing battle against websites said to infringe music copyrights, record labels have initiated a fresh wave of actions aimed at forcing UK ISPs to carry out domain blocking. This third wave is set to be the biggest so far, affecting as many as 25 domains and including some of the world’s largest torrent sites and file-hosting search engines. Furthermore, the BPI – the entity coordinating the action – will ask courts to block US-based music streaming operation, Grooveshark.
In early July 2012, a music industry insider informed TorrentFreak that music licensing group PPL had begun polling its members on the issue of piracy.
On behalf of the BPI and by extension the major recording labels in the UK, PPL asked its members whether they had licensed any music to a range of torrent sites including KickAssTorrents, H33T and Fenopy. By February 2013 their motivations were confirmed when the High Court ordered ISPs to block all three sites.
Now, ten months after their initial survey and three months after their latest court success, we can confirm that the BPI have just initiated their most ambitious domain blocking initiative yet. Yesterday on behalf of the BPI, PPL sent out a request to its members, similar in most key respects to the one sent last year.
“Over the past years, UK music labels have innovated to build one of the most vibrant digital music sectors in the world. However, the growth of digital music in the UK is held back by a raft of illegal businesses commercially exploiting music without a licence from the copyright holders,” the communication begins.
“In considering what next steps to take, BPI would like to know if any PPL record company members have, in the UK, licensed their recorded music to the operators of the below websites,” it continues.
What follows is list containing some of the world’s largest BitTorrent, file-hosting, and MP3 search engine websites in the world. A second industry source informs TorrentFreak that the BPI does indeed intend to have the sites blocked via upcoming action in the High Court.
1337x currently has 484,000 torrents in its database. The site is special since it’s in a minority of public torrent sites that also operates its own tracker. At the turn of 2013 it was the 6th most popular torrent site in the world.
BitSnoop is a torrent indexing site that currently has a massive 19.9 million torrents in its database. When it comes to DMCA notices the site is more transparent than most. BitSnoop says its has complied with 789,303 takedown notices since December 2011 and even publishes league tables of the senders. According to the list the BPI have sent none, which is interesting since they have sent more than 300,000 complaints to Google about BitSnoop.
ExtraTorrent is the 5th largest torrent and 9th largest file-sharing related website in the world. It also claims to be DMCA compliant but that hasn’t stopped the BPI sending close to 200,000 takedowns directly to Google.
Two years ago Isohunt became the first torrent search engine to implement a keyword filter to block infringing content on behalf of the MPAA. It is the 4th largest torrent site in the world and is subject to continuing legal action in the United States. BPI member companies have sent more than 310,000 takedown requests to Google.
TorrentReactor re-entered the Top 10 torrent websites chart this year after a brief hiatus. The site claims compliance with both the DMCA and its European equivalent.
The BPI’s list is long and goes on to include TorrentCrazy, Monova, Torrentdownloads and TorrentHound, and with the word ‘torrent’ cropping up a few times one might presume that these sites are all fundamentally the same. However, there is a surprise inclusion in the list.
Torrentz is the 3rd largest torrent site in the world but it differs from the other sites in the list in an important way. Torrentz is a meta-search engine, in that it’s a search engine that searches other search engines. Furthermore, not only is it fully compliant with the DMCA and its euro equivalent, but Torrentz carries absolutely no torrents whatsoever.
File-Hosting search engines
The attack on torrent search engines is only the beginning. The BPI is also looking to target other sites that don’t carry any of their own material but index content located on other sites.
Filestube, a site that indexes content on a few dozen external file-hosting sites, has been subjected to a massive DMCA notice campaign in recent months. Google says it has received 4.45 million takedown notices from 2,2650 copyright holders. Other similar sites included on the BPI list are Filecrop, Filetram and Rapidlibrary.
Music streaming and MP3
Although it is already the subject of a domain block in Denmark, the inclusion of Grooveshark in the BPI’s list comes as somewhat of a surprise. Isohunt aside, the company’s management have a much higher public profile than any other site in the list and could conceivably turn up in the UK High Court to fight any blocking attempt.
The list winds up with a range of MP3 download/search engine type operations that have grown in popularity during recent months. BeeMP3, Dilandau, MP3juices, MP3lemon, MP3raid and MP3skull have all featured heavily in Google’s Transparency Report, probably due to their ease of use and crowd-pleasing search results.
Abmp3, Bomb-mp3, Emp3world and Newalbumreleases complete the list.
PPL members are being asked to respond directly to the BPI’s legal department by May 21 informing the music group of any licensing deals in place – presumably the BPI wish to avoid potential embarrassment in the High Court.