In a response to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in August, the RIAA has submitted its list of “notorious markets” for 2012.
The RIAA and other rightsholders compile this list every year and not without success. The music group credits the Government’s efforts as contributing to the demise of BTJunkie, Demonoid, Megaupload and other ‘pirate’ sites.
“We want to take a moment to reflect on the fact that thanks in large part to the efforts of the US Government in highlighting illicit practices, some of the notorious markets that we identified in last year’s submission no longer feature in this filing,” the RIAA’s Neil Turkewitz begins.
But despite these successes, the piracy problem isn’t going away.
The record labels have therefore compiled a new list of “notorious” websites which they say profit from direct or indirect copyright infringement. The list zooms in on several file-sharing portals including BitTorrent sites described as “high priority pirate markets.”
The RIAA admits that many of the popular BitTorrent sites do take links down when they are asked to, but these takedown requests don’t have the desired effect as the content can simply be re-uploaded by the site’s users.
“One of the principal problems with the use of take down notices for BitTorrent indexing sites is that the same infringing material can easily be, and usually is, very quickly reposted to the site,” RIAA writes.
This issue is complicated further by the existence of many similar files under different URLs. The RIAA wants to end this ongoing “cat and mouse” game and would like BitTorrent sites to take proactive measures to ensure that infringing files are not added to their service to begin with.
“As a result, copyright owners are forced into an endless ‘cat and mouse’ game, which requires considerable resources to be devoted to chasing infringing content, only for that same infringing content to continually reappear.”
“For that reason, BitTorrent site operators should take proactive measures to stop indexing torrents,” RIAA writes, hinting at automatic filters of infringing files.
The worst offending BitTorrent sites according to the RIAA are The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, Torrentz, KickassTorrents, BitSnoop, SumoTorrent, Torrenthound, BTMon, ExtraTorrent, Fenopy, LimeTorrents and TorrentReactor.
The Pirate Bay is reported as particularly problematic, and it’s one of the few sites that does not respond to take down requests from copyright holders. The RIAA further informs the Government that the site continues to operate despite criminal convictions against its former operators.
“Despite the final criminal convictions and successful civil litigation in Sweden, the site is still active and thought to be the most popular BitTorrent site in the world, with nearly 6 million registered users uploading and making content available to over 26 million users. The world’s most popular films and music can be instantly downloaded via the service,” the RIAA writes.
Interestingly, the RIAA also says that it’s monitoring the use of a free VPN service that was supposedly launched by The Pirate Bay earlier this year, not realizing that it was merely an advertisement.
“In August 2012, it was reported that The Pirate Bay had launched a new ad-supported VPN service, PrivitizeVPN, the purpose of which is to enable users to ‘cloak’ their IP address when using file sharing services to make enforcement more difficult. This service is in its early stage and usage is being monitored.”
Besides BitTorrent sites the RIAA also lists several linking sites and cyberlockers as piracy havens. The appearance of RapidShare is most surprising as the Swiss cyberlocker has undertaken tremendous efforts to curb piracy in recent months.
The RIAA suggests that the owners of cyberlockers should proactively filter infringing files as well, in addition to responding to take down requests. The group points out that some services do this already, naming Hulkshare as an example.
“To a limited extent, rights holders can begin to tackle these infringements through take down notices sent to the locker service provider. However, rights holders cannot locate content stored on a locker service unless and until it is made available to the public – which is done via a third-party link,” RIAA writes.
“The locker service itself would clearly be better placed to locate infringing content on its own servers (there are technologies available that would assist) and to take appropriate action,” they add.
While not stated specifically, it appears that the RIAA views all file-hosting and sharing sites as piracy havens unless they employ a proactive filtering mechanism. This is in line with the music industry’s global anti-piracy strategy which leaked a few months ago.
In the coming month the Office of the US Trade Representative is expected to publish its own overview of notorious markets. This review is expected to include many of the sites mentioned above.