In a letter addressed to Kira Alvarez, Chief Negotiator and Deputy Assistant for Intellectual Property Enforcement at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the MPAA has submitted a list of online and physical locations where unauthorized movie industry products can be obtained.
“The Motion Picture Association of America submits the following response to the request for written submissions issued October 1, 2010, by the Office of the US Trade Representative, inviting submissions from the public on notorious markets outside of the United States,” wrote Interim CEO and President of the MPAA, Bob Pisano.
Following a preamble describing the importance of the movie industry to the U.S. economy, Pisano stresses the influence MPAA member companies products wield internationally and the need to protect their business outside US borders.
“The industry distributes its films to over 150 countries and in 2007, 46 percent of MPAA’s member companies’ revenue came from overseas,” he wrote.
“MPAA has a strong interest in the health and sustainability of these international markets and appreciates USTR’s interest in identifying notorious markets that threaten legitimate commerce, impair legitimate markets’ viability and curb U.S. competitiveness and hurt our overall economic strength. It is critical that our trading partners protect and enforce intellectual property rights.”
It will come as no surprise to learn that Pisano’s list of “notorious markets” is headed by some of the world’s biggest torrent sites. Below, we list the sites being targeted and the description of each that the MPAA gave to the U.S. Government, errors (such as TPB having a tracker) intact.
BTjunkie.org – Sweden
This BitTorrent indexer with an Alexa ranking of 385 aggregates content “torrents”, which are executable instructions that initiate the download process. Btjunkie offers nearly 100,000 active torrents that are identified as copyrighted movie or television files. Unique to btjunkie.org is its ability to make available both public and non-public infringing content. With most release groups posting new content to non-public torrent websites, this indexing capability is particularly challenging for rightsholders. The site is currently hosted by Sweden’s NetworkSpiration.
Demonoid.com – Ukraine
Demonoid is a very active, semi-private BitTorrent tracker and website with servers located in the Ukraine. Individuals can view what is available but downloading the torrent metadata requires the user to log in. A review of the accessible content on the site lists nearly 100,000 copyrighted movies and television files. Demonoid’s Alexa ranking is 516 which is extremely high for a semi-private environment
IsoHunt – Canada
This is the most popular BitTorrent site in the world after The Pirate Bay. IsoHunt boasts of having 12.51 million peers and 3,743,581 active torrents and has an Alexa rank of 227. A U.S. Court issued a permanent injunction against IsoHunt after finding that over 90% of the downloads made using IsoHunt’s services related to infringing content and that the defendants were liable for inducing infringement. Yet, its Canadian operator continues to run the site with impunity. The site’s operator has commenced an action in Canada seeking a declaration that its operations do not violate Canadian law. IsoHunt can be found at 188.8.131.52. Its corporate address is IsoHunt Web Technologies, Inc., 820 Broadway West, Vancouver, BC V8Q 4K1.
Kickasstorrents.com – Sweden
This BitTorrent portal has a commercial look and feel that could deceive users into thinking it is legitimate. It has been gaining popularity since 2009. The site is hosted by Sweden’s Dedicated Network, Luxembourg’s Root, and France’s OVH. This infrastructure creates redundancy to defend against successful litigation, raids or other actions that may threaten the service. Its current Alexa ranking is 457 and it appears to offer access to 8.1 million torrent files.
Rutracker.org – Russia
This BitTorrent portal is the clone to Torrents.ru, which was taken down by the Russian criminal authorities. It is an indexing site that serves four million users and it has over one million active torrents. It has a global Alexa ranking of 297 and a shockingly high local ranking – 15. Torrent.ru had its domain name suspended by RU-Center, the nation’s largest registrar and web-host, but for now the site is back up at Rutracker.org and it remains to be seen whether the new domain will be taken down by the authorities. Its IP address is 184.108.40.206 and it is hosted by AvtomatizatsiyaBusiness Consulting.
ThePirateBay.org – Sweden/Netherlands
This BitTorrent portal has servers in both Sweden and the Netherlands. The Pirate Bay (TPB) comprises a BitTorrent tracker and websites which facilitate the exchange of vast amounts of infringing content. The Pirate Bay operators proudly claim that it is the biggest tracker of its kind in the world, with over one million users. Since its establishment in 2004, the website has grown exponentially and is now accessible in some 39 separate languages. It has facilitated the illegal exchange of untold millions of protected copyright works. Rightsholders, their trade associations and collecting societies have made countless complaints about the TPB’s activities. The Pirate Bay contains significant and lucrative third-party advertising, much of it promoting the porn industry and US green cards. Advertising revenue is typically a function of number of unique site visits per day. With more than one million hits per day – the Pirate Bay takes in an estimated $60,000 per month from advertisers in addition to thousands of dollars collected from user “donations.” In May 2006, the Swedish Police executed search warrants at 10 separate locations and seized 17 computer servers and made three arrests, closing down the site for a brief period. Although the site operators were ultimately convicted by a Stockholm court, the site has not been shut down. Only the Italian government has taken such action vis à vis Italy. This site has also sparked numerous civil proceedings.
From torrent sites, the MPAA then moves to their next biggest target – file-hoster/cyberlocker services.
“It is very common for links to illegal copies of movies and television shows stored on cyberlockers to be widely disseminated across the Internet via linking websites, forums, blogs or email,” says Pisano.
“Some cyberlockers offer both legitimate and infringing content. The cyberlockers listed below were identified because traffic to their sites is driven by the vast amounts of infringing premium content available to users.”
The MPAA goes on to list several hosting services including Megaupload.com, Megavideo.com, RapidShare.com, Webhards (Korea) and Ba-k.com (Mexico).
The linking site Kino.to, which appeared in our recent article, is also listed as problematic.
Not even the newsgroups escape scrutiny, with famous Usenet service UseNext making the list. The MPAA’s description can be seen below:
UseNext.de – Germany/Netherlands.
This Usenet service markets to mainstream P2P users much more heavily and directly than do traditional subscription Usenet services. UseNext claims that over 1.2 million videos are available and proclaims “There is nothing you won’t find here.” High-quality Blu-ray rips of MPAA members’ content can be found on UseNext. UseNext has approximately 200,000 regular users. UseNext provides a free trial period to users and then subscription plans start at approximately $10 USD a month and go up based on the quantity of content users wish to download. It is estimated that UseNext clears around 100,000 EUR a month. UseNext is a German operation with indexing servers in the Netherlands. Its Alexa rank is 5,845 and its German rank is 2,811.
The rest of Pisano’s letter is dedicated to both online services selling counterfeit physical products and real-life physical locations around the world selling the same, including markets in such diverse locations such as Ukraine, Czech Republic, Canada, Indonesia, Ireland, India, various South American countries and China.
“MPAA supports USTR’s efforts to identify foreign notorious markets. These markets are an immediate threat to legitimate commerce, impairing legitimate markets’ viability and curbing U.S. competitiveness. We strongly support efforts by the US government to work with trading partners to protect and enforce intellectual property rights and, in so doing, protect U.S. jobs,” Pisano concludes.