Pirate Sites Exploit ‘Interplanetary File System’ Gateways, Publishers Warn

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The Association of American Publishers has shared its overview of notorious piracy markets with the U.S. Trade Representative. The organization sees shadow libraries, including LibGen and Sci-Hub, as key problems, with the relatively new meta-search engine Anna's Archive also getting a mention. Third-party intermediaries pose problems too, the publishers note, with abuse of the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) as a growing concern.

ipfs logoThe InterPlanetary File System, more broadly known as IPFS, has been around for the past eight years.

While the name may sound otherworldly to the public at large, the peer-to-peer file storage network has a growing user base among the tech-savvy.

In short, IPFS is a decentralized network where users make files available to each other. The system makes websites censorship resistant and not vulnerable to regular hosting outages.

These advantages allow archivists, content creators, researchers, and many others to reliably distribute large volumes of data over the Internet. These same features also appeal to pirate sites, and several have actively started to embrace the technology to bypass censors.

Publishers Share IPFS Concerns

This week, IPFS was repeatedly mentioned by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in its overview of the most notorious piracy markets submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative. The list includes the usual suspects, such as Z-Library, Sci-Hub and Libgen.

In addition to these main threats, the publishers say they are “increasingly concerned” with how these shadow libraries exploit IPFS to host and distribute pirated books and articles.

While it’s difficult to the stop distribution of content once it’s on IPFS, many people use gateway sites to access the content. These gateways serve as an intermediary and allow anyone to access IPFS-hosted sites without having to install dedicated software.

These gateways are helpful for those who only access IPFS content occasionally. The publishers see them as a threat, as they make the piracy angle easier too.

“Notorious piracy networks such as Libgen and Z-Library are already exploiting public gateways within the Interplanetary File System to host and distribute copyright protected content in a decentralized manner,” AAP informs the USTR.


IPFS Gateway Takedowns

The publishers recognize that IPFS technology has legal uses and that it’s intended to provide a resilient and more secure infrastructure. However, they hope that gateways are willing to address the piracy problem.

Most gateways accept copyright infringement notices. This includes Cloudflare’s version, which is one of the examples mentioned by the publishers. According to Cloudflare’s most recently published transparency report, it took more than 1,000 IPFS abuse ‘actions’ in six months.

More recent information suggests that IPFS gateways are flooded by DMCA takedown notices, which caused at least one operator to shut down their ‘fun’ project. Other gateways have disappeared recently as well, perhaps in part due to similar copyright troubles.

The publishers don’t blame the gateways directly and recognize that they accept takedown notices. Ideally, they should do more than that by preventing pirated content from being distributed through their platforms, they argue.

“While IPFS gateways are responsive to individual reports of infringement, preventing notorious piracy networks, such as Libgen, from exploiting their services would greatly improve enforcement efforts,” the publishers write.

Slippery Slope

AAP doesn’t offer any concrete suggestions but it would likely want to see these gateways actively blocking pirate sites. That might be an easy way to address the issue, but it’s also a slippery slope, particularly for a network that’s ultimately intended to be censorship-resistant.

TorrentFreak reached out to IPFS for a comment on the publishers’ remarks but the project didn’t immediately respond.

In the grander scheme, the publishers still have bigger problems to worry about for now. Many of the sites AAP flagged as “notorious markets” are still available on the open web, distributed through regular web browsers. Perhaps these will also pose a problem some day.

A copy of the Association of American Publishers’ notorious markets recommendation is available here (pdf). Below, we list an overview of all the sites and services that it mentions.

Notorious Markets

– Afkebooks.com
– Alibaba (Taobao and Goofish)
– Anna’s Archive
– Avaxhome
– Libgen.rs (also libgen.is; libgen.st; library.lol; library.bz; libgen.fun – for IPFS content)
– Nitroflare.com
– Rapidgator.net
– Sci-hub.se
– Shopee
– Uploadgig.com

Other Services

Read Online Sites (e.g. Idoc.pub / full-english-books.net)
1337 Services (Njalla)
Rogue Hosting Providers (e.g. Contabo.com / Incognet.io)


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