A report by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has classified some of of the most prominent BitTorrent websites as examples of online marketplaces that merit investigation for possible intellectual property rights infringements.
BitTorrent is a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) communications protocol for file sharing that excels at transferring large amounts of data. It is used for both legal and illegal file transfers.
In its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” report [PDF], the USTR identified 17 websites and 17 physical markets that it claimed were helping to sustain global piracy.
Ten BitTorrent sites were listed in the report as being “notorious hubs for infringing activities.” They were ThePirateBay, IsoHunt, btjunkie, Kickasstorrents, torrentz.com, Rutracker, Demonoid, Publicbt, openbittorrent, and zamunda.
“Piracy and counterfeiting undermine the innovation and creativity that is vital to our global competitiveness,” United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement. “The review we are announcing today shines a light on examples of many offending markets, and highlights an opportunity to work together with our trading partners to curb illicit trade and expand legitimate commerce in creative and innovative industries.”
The US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation, hailed the report and called on Congress to enact legislation that would allow courts to cut off foreign websites from the US market.
“Many of the online sites that we identify may conduct some legitimate activities, but they fail to address their own conduct in facilitating the theft of intellectual property and therefore deserve to be identified as notorious pirate markets,” Neil Turkewitz, the Executive Vice President of the Recording Industry Association of America said in a letter to the USTR, urging the agency to include BitTorrent sites in its report.
The report does not identify any legal violations, but it calls on the responsible authorities to step up efforts to combat piracy and take legal action where appropriate.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seized a number of domain names in the past few months, mostly of websites involved in pirating music, television or movies.
In the first week of February, ICE announced the domain names of ten “linking” websites had been seized for providing access to illegal, pirated telecasts of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The domain names were seized as part of “Operation in Our Sites,” an ongoing investigation into websites that illegally offer copyrighted material.
In November 2010, the DHS closed down at least 76 domains. Many of the web domains were sites that trafficked in counterfeit brand name goods and some others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials. At least one of the sites was a Google-like search engine: a revelation that caused alarm among web freedom advocates who worried the government’s move stepped over the line.