Following the example of the United States, the EU started publishing its very own piracy watchlist two years ago.
The annual ‘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 example, the first watch list 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.
EU’s 2020 Piracy Watchlist
The European Commission is currently working on its 2020 watchlist and has already completed the public consultation. This resulted in a list of sites and services which are now being vetted for publication.
“This list will again identify and describe the most problematic marketplaces […] in order to encourage their operators and owners as well as the responsible local authorities and governments to take the necessary actions and measures to reduce the availability of IPR infringing goods or services,” the Commission writes.
A common critique with this type of watchlist is that they are often based on one-sided input. The ‘piracy’ and ‘copyright infringement’ claims come from copyright holders and are often repeated before hearing from the accused party.
EU Commission Consults Accused Sites
The European Commission breaks with this tradition. It has recently contacted several accused parties, allowing them to have their say. TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of a torrent site who, on the condition of anonymity, agreed to share the letter he received from the Commission.
“We contact you because the website you operate was one of the reported marketplaces,” the letter starts.
“According to the stakeholders, [redacted] is reportedly a popular BitTorrent website hosted in [redacted] facilitating access to a wide range of content, including music, films, TV programmes, software and videogames.”
The Commission acknowledges that the targeted site responds to takedown notices, but copyright holders report that infringing material is usually quickly reposted. In addition, the site reportedly generates income from ad revenue and pay-per-install links that could link to malware.
Based on these third-party reports, the EU Commission is inclined to add the site to the forthcoming piracy watch list. However, it allows the site operator to have his say as well.
“Based on the public consultation, we are considering including the name of the site you operate in the next edition of the Watch List. We would like to give you the opportunity to express your views concerning the above-mentioned allegations reported by stakeholders and to send us your comments.”
Proper Verification is Welcome
The site operator we spoke with isn’t sure whether he is going to reply. However, it is laudable that targeted sites are allowed to chime in before the list is published.
It’s not entirely clear what constitutes a ‘pirate’ site in the eyes of the EU Commission. The letter suggests that simply taking down reported files isn’t good enough as they will simply reappear. However, that same logic applies to many sites and services, including YouTube.
When the European Commission announced its most recent consultation earlier this year it said that all information received will be thoroughly verified. This is crucial, as its first report wasn’t free of errors, and included a perfectly legitimate site.