Leading up to today’s hearing in Washington, there has been a lot of talk about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Aside from making streaming of copyrighted content a felony, the pending bill aims to make it easier to put sites that facilitate copyright infringement out of business.
Should SOPA become law authorities and copyright holders will have a broad range of tools to censor sites they deem to be facilitating copyright infringement. Aside from domain seizures, they can demand that search engines remove ‘rogue sites’ from their results, order ISPs to block these domains, and cut off their payments providers.
One of the problems with the legislation is that the definition of such infringing sites is open to interpretation. Today we can reveal which sites are on the hit list of the RIAA, and it comes as no surprise that all the major BitTorrent sites are prominently featured.
The RIAA was kind enough to send TorrentFreak a copy of their latest overview of “notorious” websites that was sent to the Office of the US Trade Representative (the MPAA submitted theirs earlier). We were asked not to share the letter in full, but below is a rundown of some of the most prominent sites that are mentioned.
“RIAA members are excited about the potential of the internet and other communication technologies to provide an efficient means of distribution to music lovers globally. Regrettably, this potential remains largely unrealized—mired in a morass of piracy,” the letter addressed to the USTR reads.
The RIAA hopes that their list of sites will help the government to focus their anti-piracy efforts, and in a way it can be viewed as a priority “hit list” should SOPA become law. If it was up to the music group, this list would include all prominent BitTorrent sites.
“P2P file-sharing remains a huge problem for the record industry. BitTorrent, a P2P filesharing protocol, is responsible for approximately 50% of the industry’s global P2P piracy problem and in some international markets the figure is as high as 90%. BitTorrent sites and services, across the board, are high priority pirate markets,” the RIAA writes.
Based on visitor count, the number of pirated music files that are linked, and the sites’ failure to take steps to address the massive piracy problem, they arrive at the following list:
Under SOPA, all the above domains could be put out of business without due process, the only requirement is that the Attorney General has to sign off on it.
Aside from BitTorrent sites the RIAA also wants cyberlockers such as Megaupload, Filesonic and 4shared to be dealt with, as well as the search engine FilesTube, and the forum Warez-BB.org. And there is more.
The RIAA points out that there are also several foreign sites that have copyright infringing “features” such as Russia’s main social networking site VKontakte and the Chinese search engine Sougou.
“In some sense, services such as Russia’s VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, and China’s Sougou and Xunlei are the most reprehensible of actors given that they want to appear as legitimate actors, and have functions unrelated to piracy, yet operate network services that include features that intentionally and effectively induce infringement,” the RIAA explains.
This last example shows that the definition of infringing sites can become very subjective down the line. It only requires a little creative writing to make half of the websites on the Internet appear as a rogue site, and thus eligible to be shut down.
Aside from the copyright issues, there is a broader international censorship issue at stake here. SOPA would grant U.S. authorities to seize the .com domains of Russia and China’s top tech companies with a strike of the pen. We doubt that these countries will be very pleased with that – just imagine how the U.S. would react if the opposite was true…
That would mean war.