Inside MPAA’s Piracy Deal With the Donuts Domain Registry

The MPAA and the Donuts domain registry have announced a new partnership aimed at curtailing movie and TV show piracy. Donuts controls the .movie gTLD so the arrangement is symbolic for the MPAA, but how will it work in practice? TF has obtained details of the deal which could act as a blueprint for future voluntary agreements.

mpaa-logoDomain name registry Donuts describes itself as “the largest operator of new domain name extensions” and it certainly has some interesting ones under its belt.

In addition to future classics such as .EMAIL, .COMPANY and .GURU, Donuts also has more light-hearted options available including .FAIL and .WTF.

However, with a current registration volume that has just surpassed 900 domains, the gTLD of most interest to Hollywood (except .TAX, perhaps) is .MOVIE.

With this in mind it will come as no surprise that the MPAA has been building bridges with Donuts in order to keep .MOVIE clean while avoiding the nightmare scenario of ThePirateBay.MOVIE gaining traction with millions of Internet pirates.


Still available……at a price

tpb-movie

To that end, the MPAA and Donuts have just announced a voluntary agreement to ensure that domains under the control of the registry aren’t engaged in Internet piracy.

Under the agreement the MPAA will be granted “Trusted Notifier” status, i.e. it will become the definitive authority on what is considered a large-scale piracy website. Sites that are subsequently found to be breaching Donuts’ terms and conditions will either have their domains suspended or put on hold.

“This is a groundbreaking partnership and one we’re proud to undertake,” says Donuts Co-Founder and Executive Vice President Jon Nevett.

“Donuts, as the operator of .MOVIE, .THEATER, .COMPANY and almost 200 other domain extensions, is committed to a healthy domain name environment and this is another step toward a safe and secure namespace.”

While praising Donuts for its cooperation, MPAA chief Chris Dodd took the opportunity to show that it’s indeed possible for Hollywood and technology companies to reach voluntary agreement on piracy-related matters, without intervention from the law.

“This agreement demonstrates that the tech community and content creators can work together on voluntary initiatives to help ensure vibrant, legal digital marketplaces that benefit all members of the online ecosystem,” Dodd said.

So how will the deal work in practice? TF obtained a copy of the plan which begins with the assumption that the MPAA will act with integrity.

The agreement

“Donuts will treat referrals from the MPAA expeditiously and with a presumption of credibility,” it begins.

From there the MPAA is required to fulfill several criteria, including that any complaint filed with Donuts is authorized by its members. The movie industry group is then expected to provide evidence of “clear and pervasive copyright infringement” on the domain in question while indicating which laws have been violated.

However, before contacting Donuts the MPAA will have to do additional preparatory work, including alerting both the site’s registrar and hosting provider to the alleged problems. While providing Donuts with the details of the discussions, the MPAA will be required to indicate why these failed to stop the alleged infringement.

Human-only complaints

Perhaps wary of the carpet-bombing approach employed by many DMCA complaint companies around the world today, Donuts is insisting that any reports of infringement filed by the MPAA are not based on machine-generated complaints.

“[The MPAA’s referral will contain] confirmation that the referral was subject to careful human review and not submitted solely based on automated Internet scanning or scraping services,” the plan reads.

WHOIS

It is extremely common for ‘pirate’ sites to operate with falsified WHOIS information – after all, who wants to guide a lawyer to their front door? To that end Donuts will accept complaints from the MPAA when the group feels a domain’s records contain “false or misleading information”.

Checks

In addition to dealing with the MPAA’s complaints “on an expedited basis” (while determining a course of action within 10 business days), Donuts says it will coordinate with applicable registrars and/or registrants and set deadlines for them to respond to the allegations.

However, if Donuts has any “concerns or questions” regarding the scope or nature of the alleged infringement (or has received alternative instructions from law enforcement), the registry will give the MPAA the opportunity to “supplement or amend” its referral.

Suspension

Once Donuts is happy that the MPAA has a valid complaint, it will move onto the next and final stage.

“If Donuts is satisfied that the domain clearly is devoted to clear and pervasive copyright infringement, Donuts may, in its discretion and as permitted under its Acceptable Use and Anti-Abuse Policy, suspend, terminate, or place the domain on registry lock, hold, or similar status as it determines necessary to mitigate the infringement,” the company notes.

The future

In his statement the MPAA’s Chris Dodd praised Donuts for “their leadership” and his timing could hardly be better.

The Domain Name Association will hold its first Healthy Domains Initiative summit in Seattle today and the MPAA will be hoping that other registries will see the Donuts agreement as something to aspire to. It certainly ticks all the right boxes and could prove a potent weapon in the fight against piracy.

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