Every year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes a list of ‘notorious markets’ that facilitate online piracy and related intellectual property crimes.
Drawing on input from copyright holders, the report includes a non-exclusive overview of sites and services that are believed to be involved in piracy or counterfeiting.
For more than a decade we have covered the online part of the report. Traditionally, that includes prominent torrent sites, download portals, cyberlockers, and streaming services that offer copyrighted content without obtaining permission from rightsholders.
In recent years, the scope of the report has broadened. For example, we have seen hosting companies, advertisers, and social media platforms being added. These don’t have piracy as their core business, but they allegedly facilitate infringing activity.
2022 Notorious Markets Review
Yesterday, the USTR published its 2022 Review of Notorious Markets. According to Ambassador Katherine Tai, the annual overview will help companies and countries to take proper action, where needed.
“The Notorious Markets List is an important tool that urges the private sector and our trading partners to take action against these harmful practices,” Tai notes, commenting on the release of the report.
The importance and political clout of the report shouldn’t be understated. However, the fact that some names have been listed for over a decade, shows that there are no guarantees for improvement.
Looking at the 2022 Review of Notorious Markets, we see the usual suspects, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Rapidgator, Fmovies, Sci-Hub and 2Conv. These all come with a short description of the sites and why they are deemed problematic by rightsholders.
Some dedicated IPTV services and related companies such as Globe IPTV are called out as well, while ‘bulletproof’ hosting companies (Amaru / Flokinet) and even social media platforms (VK / WeChat) get mentioned too.
The same is true for popular foreign e-commerce platforms such as Aliexpress, Baidu Wangpan and Shopee.com. These stores are often linked to the sale of counterfeit goods. Meanwhile, there is no mention of anime piracy sites, which are massively popular.
This year’s overview only delivers a few new names, including torrent sites Rutracker and YTS. The latter was noticeably missing last year, despite being the most visited torrent site on the Internet.
Russia-based classified advertisement platform Avato is another newcomer. The same is true for hosting company Amarutu, which hosts many of the largest pirate sites according to rightsholders.
The fifth and final addition is an interesting one. The USTR lists Lalastreams / istream2watch.com as a family of sports streaming sites. And indeed, these were reported by the UK Premier League a few weeks ago.
What the USTR report fails to mention is that the istream2watch.com domain was seized by U.S. law enforcement authorities last December. Other domains from the same group are not called out and remain online.
We expect that istream2watch.com won’t be used as an example next year. And while we’re on the topic, it’s worth mentioning the sites that have been removed from the notorious markets list following appearances last year.
-Blueangelhost (reason unknown)
-Chomikuj.pl (started filtering)
-Dytt8.net (reason unknown)
-Phimmoi (original site shut down)
-Popcorn Time (popular fork shut down)
-Private Layer (reason unknown)
-Revenuehits.com (reason unknown)
-Uploaded.net (shut down voluntarily)
Finally, it’s worth noting that there are no immediate legal consequences for sites and services that appear on the USTR’s list. That said, over the past year, we have seen several requests in US courts where rightsholders asked intermediaries including ISPs to block domains that appear on the USTR’s annual list.
As far as we know, none of these requests have been granted, but that could change in the future.
A copy of the USTR’s 2022 Review of Notorious Markets is available here (pdf). The full list of highlighted online sites/services, including those focused on counterfeiting, is as follows:
Streaming / IPTV
-Fmovies / Bmovies / Bflix
-Lalastreams / Istream2watch.com (new)
-Flvto.biz and 2Conv.com