U.S. Government Targets Large BitTorrent Sites And Trackers

The US Government has classified some of the largest players in the BitTorrent scene as examples of sites which sustain global piracy. Indexing and search engines The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, isoHunt, Kickasstorrents and BTjunkie all make appearances, with Demonoid, OpenBitTorrent and PublicBT described as trackers which have become "notorious for infringing activities."

In its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets”, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed more than 30 Internet and offline physical ‘markets’ which it says exemplify “key challenges” in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting.

“Piracy and counterfeiting undermine the innovation and creativity that is vital to our global competitiveness. These notorious markets not only hurt American workers and businesses, but are threats to entrepreneurs and industries around the world,” said United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

“The review we are announcing today shines a light on examples of many offending markets, and highlights an opportunity to work together with our trading partners to curb illicit trade and expand legitimate commerce in creative and innovative industries.”

Although a number of real-life traditional markets are listed, with physical locations stretching from Ecuador and Paraguay to Indonesia and China, it is those in the virtual world taking pride of place at the start of the report.

In addition to various AllofMP3 pay-to-download clones, the embattled Chinese search engine Baidu, online auction Taobao and Russian social networking site Vkontakte, it is perhaps inevitable that the report concentrated heavily on the BitTorrent scene. The report splits the torrent sites into two categories – BitTorrent indexers and BitTorrent trackers.

Heading the indexing list, as it does on so many occasions, is The Pirate Bay. It is followed in second place by Canada’s isoHunt. While the USTR points out that the former has been targeted in a criminal prosecution and the latter by civil litigation, the remaining sites on the indexing list have been the subject of neither.

In third place appears BTjunkie, noted by the USTR to be “among the largest and most popular aggregrators of public and non-public [private] torrents.” The final two places are collected by Kickasstorrents – “notable for its commercial look and feel” – and Torrentz – “a major aggregator of torrents from other BitTorrent sites.”

The separate BitTorrent tracker list is headed up by Russian-based Rutracker. Formerly known as Torrents.ru, the site’s domain name was seized in earlier copyright-related action but operates today with millions of users.

Second on the tracker list is the green devil of Ukraine – the semi-private Demonoid. The site has been the subject of threats and legal action in the past, but nothing that has gone to conclusion. Demonoid has had its share of downtime in the past but has proven largely stable and strong during the last year.

Despite carrying no searchable indexes and hosting zero torrents, the PublicBT and OpenBitTorrent trackers also make an appearance. The final position in the BitTorrent tracker list is taken by Zamunda, itself the target of a criminal prosecution in its home country of Bulgaria.

At this point there are no concrete indications what inclusion on this list will mean for the sites involved, other than the threat by the USTR that they “may merit further investigation for possible Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) infringements.” The USTR does say specifically that it has an “action plan” with the Ukranian Government to act against some of the notable AllofMP3 clones, but there is no mention of dealing with Demonoid in any way.

Potentially the sites listed above could face having their domain names seized but it is unlikely that that the approach will have much long-term effect on their operations or the wider torrent ecosystem, particularly since they are all preparing or are indeed already prepared for such an eventuality.

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