RIAA and MPAA are pulling out all the stops to suck the life out of file sharing sites like Megaupload and Rapidshare. Initially, they pinned their hopes on the contentious Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), a bill that seeks to prevent credit card companies and payment processors from rendering their services to sites actively associated with infringing activities.
But with COICA effectively lying dead in the water ever since it was blocked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the powerful trade organizations have turned their focus to goading payment processors, ISPs and, ad networks into abandoning sites that aid piracy.
In a statement sent to ZeroPaid, Megaupload stressed that it’s actually “a legitimate business operating within the boundaries of the law” that has never been sued for copyright infringement. The company also downplayed the financial value of its relationship with MasterCard, even suggesting that should the credit card company cease payment processing for the popular file sharing site, “they will have a problem not us.”
Megaupload made it very clear that it isn’t too pleased with MasterCard’s activist zeal: “Are payment processors trying to become the legislature of the new decade? Will it be them, rather than elected governments, who decide what’s right and what’s wrong? Will ballots be replaced by wallets, will people cast their votes by choosing a conservative or a liberal credit card? First WikiLeaks, then cyberlockers – what’s next, and where will it end? Will you no longer be able to settle your ISP bill by MasterCard, as your carrier of choice may profit from copyright infringement?”
It was just recently that the US Justice Department stepped in and shut down over 80 domains suspected in the distribution of counterfeit goods, or copyrighted content. Now the US intellectual property czar Victoria Espinel is saying we can "expect more of that". This announcement predictably won the praise of the entertainment industry, and will likely reignite debate on the COICA bill in congress that would expand federal authority to seize domains.
This effort is being framed as an effort to protect consumers and jobs, but we feel that more accurately describes the sites trafficking in counterfeit goods. Sites suspected of copyright infringement tend to be harder to pin down. For instance, one site taken down in the last round was only an indexer of existing torrent sites. It did not host any torrents, content, or run a tracker.
It's hard to see where the line is on the tubes these days. The administration is also talking up efforts to take down online pharmacies that are selling illegally copied drugs. We just find it odd that pirated content is being limped in here. How do you feel about these domain name seizures?
The US government today has seized 77 domains for various types of copyright infringement, TorrentFreak reports. Many of the site were selling blatant knock-offs of popular clothing lines. So no one operating those sites can really feign ignorance of the situation. One site on the list, however, is a little more confusing. Torrent-Finder was taken down in the action, having its content replaced with the same takedown notice as all the other sites.
It's fairly simple these days for enforcement agencies to call a torrent site infringing. It's been done many times. But in this case, Torrent-Finder does not host a tracker or any torrent files. It's only function is search. All the search results from existing torrent sites are displayed in an iframe. This may be a subtle distinction lost on those not familiar with the technology. But in practice this is a huge difference from sites like The Pirate Bay. it brings up some interesting questions. For example, is just linking to a torrent site considered infringing behavior?
“My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!” the owner of Torrent-Finder told TorrentFreak. His site has been resurrected on another domain, but it is unclear if it will stay up. This may just be a hint at the kind of actions we can expect if COICA is passed next year.