Russia Adds 1,768 Pirate Site Domains to WIPO Advertising Blacklist

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A database run by the World Intellectual Property Organization with the purpose of depriving pirate sites of ad revenue has just swelled significantly with the help of Russia. After being identified as persistent copyright infringers by rightsholders, local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor has entered the domains of 1,768 pirate sites, hoping to make them much less profitable.

Pirate FishAnti-piracy measures come in all shapes and sizes, from domain seizures and blocking to civil prosecutions and criminal enforcement. While these are all weapons in the arsenal, the growing use of the so-called “follow-the-money” approach is now considered to be one of the more powerful disruption options.

Given the increasingly commercial nature of a growing number of pirate services, the theory is that by cutting off revenue there will be less incentive for their owners to keep them going. Since the majority use some kind of advertising to generate profit, helping advertisers to avoid pirate platforms is now a global operation.

One of the more recent initiatives involves the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which in 2019 launched its ‘BRIP’ Database, short for “Building Respect for Intellectual Property.” Later relabeled as the WIPO ALERT database, the project receives input from authorized contributors from WIPO Member States and the advertising industry itself to build a list of copyright-infringing sites to be avoided.

Russia Joins The Program, Gets Busy

In September 2020, Russia announced it would begin participating in the WIPO ALERT program. Telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor said that it would be forwarding the domain names of sites where copyright works had been “repeatedly and illegally posted.”

This threshold appeared to be in line with Russia’s own site-blocking program, which requires a site to be labeled a repeat infringer following court processes before it is subjected to the strongest anti-piracy measures such as ISP blocking and search engine delisting.

After four months of membership, Russia says it has just made a sizeable contribution to the WIPO database via local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, based on these parameters.

“Roscomnadzor has entered 1,768 domain addresses of sites that are persistent copyright infringers into the ALERT database of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),” Roscomnadzor announced Monday.

According to the report, the domains were steadily added to WIPO ALERT between October and December 2020 in line with the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed between WIPO and Roscomnadzor in September. As previously indicated, all of the sites had previously been determined to be repeat infringers following court processes and are already blocked by local ISPs.

“For each of the resources [added to the database], the Moscow City Court previously made decisions to restrict access on a permanent basis in Russia in accordance with Article 15.6 of Federal Law No. 149-FZ ‘On Information, Information Technology and Information Protection’,” Roscomnadzor confirmed.

Concerns Over Transparency Persist

While Russia is very clear on the parameters required for a site to be entered on the WIPO ALERT database (due process and multiple court decisions, for example) the same cannot be said about other contributors to the project. Indeed, in common with similar advertising blacklists operated locally, the domains submitted are kept secret and only accessible to a limited set of eyes.

“Access to the database is open to any genuine advertising industry business which is willing to undertake to use the information solely for preventing the appearance of advertising on pirate web sites,” WIPO says.

The UN agency also promises its best efforts to keep the submitted domains confidential, noting that some countries feel that their lists of copyright-infringing websites should not be publicized, “to avoid encouraging visits to those sites.”

While this is arguably a valid concern, the lack of transparency can also be an issue since mistakes do get made. To its credit, Ukraine makes its list of infringing sites available to the public but after a close examination, TorrentFreak discovered the worrying inclusion of Twitch on the blacklist.

Following our report, Twitch’s domain was removed from the list and spared what could’ve been a silent advertising ban.


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