Last week, Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association (MPA) shared its annual overview of “notorious markets” with the US Trade Representative (USTR).
This list typically includes examples of pirate sites and services. However, it goes further than that, as third-party intermediaries are called out as well.
Notorious Domain Registries?
This year, the MPA included five registries connected to the .CH, .IS, .RU, .TO and.TV domains. These organizations manage and oversee the respective TLDs. While registries are neutral service providers, rightsholders believe that they can take a more active anti-piracy approach.
“A registry, directly or via its contractual relationship with its registrars, has the ability to withdraw or disable domain names used by websites engaged in massive copyright infringement,” MPA wrote.
With the nomination for the USTR’s annual list of notorious markets, these organizations risk becoming targeted by diplomatic pressure. However, the registries themselves see things quite differently.
The Tonga Network Information Center (TONIC), responsible for the .TO TLD, is one of the affected organizations. The MPA specifically mentioned sites such as rarbg.to, fmovies.to, kinox.to, serienstream.to, 1337x.to, torrentgalaxy.to, solarmovie.to, ibit.to, and bs.to which use the TLD.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, TONIC stresses that the organization has no obligation to respond to random complaints from third-parties. TONIC points to statements made by the EFF in the past, which also warned that taking domains offline without due process can damage free speech.
This doesn’t mean that TONIC takes no action at all. The registry informs us that it has complied with many court orders in the past, some of which resulted in domain name suspensions.
“The .TO registry complies with court orders from courts of competent jurisdiction, including US courts, and has on many occasions taken down domain names in compliance with court orders,” TONIC’s Eric Gullichsen says.
MPA’s submission also includes Iceland’s registry ISNIC. According to the Hollywood group, pirate sites and services regularly use .IS domains and it accuses the registry of being unresponsive to law enforcement requests.
“Examples of infringing websites operating with .IS domains include filmlinks4u.is, watch32.is, soap2day.is, torrentz2.is, and moviewatcher.is. ISNIC does not generally respond to international or local law enforcement requests,” MPA wrote.
ISNIC CEO Jens P. Jensen categorically denies the latter accusation, stating that it’s “plainly wrong.” ISNIC does respond to local court orders and it also accepts third-party abuse complaints.
“ISNIC does respond to genuine, well-written and informative abusive reports coming from private parties and from Law Enforcement,” Jensen informs TorrentFreak.
“Our job is then to identify, and in some cases provide the reporter with the real name and address of the registrant so that he or she can be held accountable,” he adds.
As a relatively small player, Iceland’s registry says that it goes above and beyond what other registries do. Jensen says that this includes some large players “which MPA decides not to mention as they might kick back heavily.”
ISNIC handles abuse complaints from outsiders through a ‘bad registration process’ which verifies the identity of a domain owner. If a registrant can’t back up or correct the registration within one to two weeks, the domain is suspended.
This policy and ISNIC’s other procedures are in line with the new .IS domain law that was published by the Parliament of Iceland earlier this year.
The commentary from TONIC and ISNIC show that both registries disagree with MPA’s characterizations. Both clearly reject the “notorious market” label and hope that the US Trade Representative will recognize that they don’t act in bad faith.
This isn’t the first time that registrars and registries are nominated as “notorious markets.” The MPA called out many of the same organizations last year, but those were not included in USTR’s final notorious markets report.
Update October 28: The .ch registry SWITCH also responded to our request for comment.
SWITCH clarifies that it operates in accordance with the law. However, it doesn’t have the legal authority required to assess the lawfulness of how domains are used.
Since January of this year personal information is no longer included in the Whois but there are other options for third-party complainants to access this information.
“On request, SWITCH will continue to grant access to domain name holders’ personal information available in Whois if an overriding legitimate interest can be shown to be credible. In principle, anyone who has a legitimate interest in asserting their rights in court has an overriding interest in accessing a domain name holder’s personal data if such data is required for legal proceedings.”
“SWITCH also provides assistance with identifying domain name holders in particular. If they do not correctly identify themselves, SWITCH is permitted to revoke the assignment of the domain name under certain conditions,” the registry adds.