Hollywood Wants Governments to Push Voluntary Anti-Piracy Deals

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Hollywood's MPAA sees voluntary anti-piracy agreements as a key element to fight cross-border piracy. The industry is already cooperating with advertisers and payment providers, but more can be done. Local governments could help to negotiate new deals with online intermediaries such as hosting providers, CDNs and search engines, the group suggests.

The ever-present threat of online piracy remains a hot topic in Hollywood.

A lot has changed over the years. Piracy is arguably more mainstream now with easy to use streaming sites and tools, and site owners have become more skilled at evading various enforcement efforts.

Most sites have multiple domain names at their disposal, for example, as well as access to hosting facilities that are more responsive to complaints from rightsholders.

According to Hollywood’s MPAA, cross-border cooperation with various third-party intermediaries is required to curb piracy. The group has promoted this agenda for a while and is now reemphasizing the need for governments to facilitate these kinds of deals.

In a statement prepared for an upcoming meeting of WIPO’s Advisory Committee on Enforcement, MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief Dean Marks states that voluntary agreements are essential in their fight against piracy.

These agreements will help to adapt to the evolving piracy landscape, much quicker than copyright legislation can.

“Unlike laws and regulations, voluntary measures can quickly be adapted to address changing forms of online piracy. Such measures benefit not only rightsholders, but also internet intermediaries, service providers, governments and individual users of the internet,” Marks notes.

“Voluntary measures should therefore be encouraged by governments as an important means of addressing online copyright piracy,” he adds (pdf).

One of the problems, according to the Hollywood group, is that piracy sites are spreading their infrastructure all over the world. They may use a domain name in one country, hosting in a few others, and a CDN on top of all that.

This cross-border threat can often not be dealt with in a single country or by a single company. It requires cooperation from a wide variety of third-party intermediaries, including search engines and hosting providers.

“Clearly this new paradigm of infringement strains the foundational notion of territoriality of copyright law and increases the difficulty of effectively enforcing copyrights,” Marks writes.

“Hosting providers, domain name registries and registrars, CDNs, cloud storage services and even internet access providers and search engines all can serve a constructive role by adopting measures to prevent their platforms and services from being abused for copyright infringement.”

The MPAA has thus far struck two voluntary deals with the domain name registries Donuts and Radix. This allows the anti-piracy group to report infringing domain names, which may then be removed. Thus far this has resulted in 25 domain name suspensions, but the MPAA would like to broaden its scope and partner with more registries.

Hosting companies, CDNs such as Cloudflare, and search engines can also do more to curb copyright infringements. Ultimately this will be in their own interest, the MPAA says. These companies do not want to be associated with piracy or face tougher legislation when governments step in.

“…many companies do not wish to be associated with those engaged in illegal activities, including copyright pirates. Moreover, turning a blind eye to doing business with pirate websites can result in damaging repercussions.

“In the United States of America (USA), for example, intermediaries have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in criminal copyright prosecutions,” Marks notes.

MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief suggests a few ways governments can intervene. They could host hearings to facilitate cooperation, for example. Another option is to adopt laws or regulations that foster cooperation.

Finally, Marks notes that authorities can instruct law enforcement agencies to “work with” internet intermediaries and service providers to adopt voluntary anti-piracy measures, similar to the ones in place with City of London Police and its piracy watch list for advertisers.

Previously the MPAA has offered similar suggestions to the US Government. While this may have had some effect, many companies are still reluctant to jump on board.

Companies such as Google, CloudFlare and ICANN don’t believe they are required to proactively enforce against piracy on a broad scale, and it likely requires a massive push to change their perspective.

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