Following the example of the United States, the EU started publishing its very own piracy watchlist two years ago.
This ‘Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List’ is put together by the European Commission. As in the US, it is based on reports from copyright holder groups that report several problematic sites and services for inclusion.
For example, those platforms included ‘non-EU’ targets such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz2, Rapidgator, Uploaded, Sci-Hub, and H2converter. In addition, some third-party intermediaries such as Cloudflare were called out as well.
This week the European Commission released the second edition of the piracy watch list. The overview highlights examples of non-EU based apps, services, websites, and physical marketplaces that facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy.
While the EC doesn’t draw any legal conclusions, the watch list is supposed to motivate the operators and foreign governments to take action. In addition, it’s also meant as a warning for consumers.
“The Watch List aims to encourage the operators of these marketplaces and of the intermediaries providing services to them, as well as local enforcement authorities and governments to take action to stop or prevent intellectual property infringements,” the European Commission notes.
“It also aims to raise awareness among EU citizens on the environmental, product safety and other risks of purchasing from these potentially problematic markets.”
The 56-page document sums up a wide range of problematic areas. We will highlight those that apply to online piracy. This includes some familiar names such as The Pirate Bay, Rapidgator, SciHub, and Y2mate as well as some new entries, which are listed per category at the end of the article.
The Malware Threat
The document relies heavily on input from copyright holders, who increasingly emphasize the threat of malware in an effort to keep people away from pirate sites. While experts don’t agree on the gravity of this threat, it is prominently mentioned in the EU piracy watch list.
“Piracy also has a negative impact on consumers and the security of their devices and the personal data and other information stored therein. Along with pirated content, infringing websites commonly distribute various kinds of malware and potentially unwanted programs,” the report reads.
Pirate sites reportedly lure users into downloading these malicious files which use artificial intelligence and psychology to trick their users.
“These programs use deceptive techniques and social engineering to trick end-users into disclosing their sensitive information or payment card details. Social engineering has evolved, now equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) tools to further exploit human psychology and gain access to systems and data.”
EU Adds Social Media
A new category in this year’s list is social media. While these platforms are not typically aimed towards pirates, they are used to share copyright-infringing content. According to copyright holders, bad actors use social media platforms to distribute pirated content on a broad scale.
For this reason, the EU decided to add this as a new category, hoping to motivate the targeted platforms to up their anti-piracy games.
“The service providers are not reported as having engaged in unauthorized activities, but are mentioned in this Section for the reason that they are reported to allegedly lag behind in efforts to combat piracy or counterfeiting,” the report reads.
The list of problematic social media platforms is limited to the Russian Facebook-equivalent VK.com and the messaging application Telegram, which both objected to their inclusion on the list.
Telegram, for example, informed the European Commission that it swiftly takes down reported content. This takedown policy is similar to those of many other online service providers.
“Telegram claims that they do not tolerate any malicious content on their platform and delete within 24 hours,” the EC notes. “For instance, Telegram shut down the 26 channels in Italy following an order issued by AGCOM.”
VK also detailed its anti-piracy policies but despite these rebuttals, both VK.com and Telegram are listed.
Countering the piracy allegations has worked for Cloudflare. In the previous list, the company was prominently highlighted as a problematic service. While Cloudflare didn’t change its policies, the Commission changed its opinion.
This year several copyright holders again nominated Cloudflare but, despite the ongoing debate about its role in the piracy ecosystem, the EU decided not to include any CDN services.
“CDNs might be difficult to categorize, as they usually provide a package of services related to the transmission, delivery and storage of content and relate to various players in the internet ecosystem,” the EC writes.
Among other things, Cloudflare informed the EU that it shares IP-addresses of pirate sites with trusted notifiers. While the company doesn’t disconnect pirate sites, this information should allow copyright holders to go after the hosting services directly.
The European Commission notes that the new watch list will be used for further discussions with all relevant stakeholders, including some of the targeted services and foreign governments. Whether it will have a major impact is doubtful though.
The classic pirate sites are not going to be affected much. The Pirate Bay and other sites have been put on watch lists for years and if anything, they could see it as a badge of honor.
Legitimate companies could be earlier to sway but, as Cloudflare, VK, and Telegram show, they often have counterarguments. In fact, VK has been listed as a problematic service for nearly a decade on the US watch list despite increased anti-piracy efforts.
To some degree, these annual and bi-annual piracy watch lists may serve as inspiration for prospective pirates. But that is another discussion.
A copy of the European Commission’s second Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List is available here (pdf). A list of all the online piracy targets and intermediaries can be found below.
– uploaded.net (ul.to, uploaded.to)
– Wi.to and Ddl.to
– y2mate.com and youtubeconverter.io
– Flvto.biz and 2conv.com
Linking or referring websites
– Fullhdfilmizlesene.com or .org
BitTorrent and P2P Sites
Unlicensed download sites
– Music-Bazaar.com and Music-Bazaar.mobi
– Sci-hub.tw; sci-hub.cc; sci-hub.ac; sci-hub.bz; sci-hub.ren; sci-hub-im; scihub.shop
– Libgen.is and mirror sites
– Popcorn Time
– Private Layer
Unlicensed IPTV services