The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is preparing for its annual “Special 301” report, which describes the adequacy and effectiveness of US trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). It is due to be presented to Congress in the next month or so.
Meanwhile, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has presented its 25th report focusing on the top 40 countries for piracy to USTR for its consideration as part of the report. The IIPA is a Washington-based lobbying group with representation from the top seven core copyright trade associations, including The Business Software Alliance (BSA) , the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) , and others. In all, IIPA member associations represent more than 1,900 US companies.
Eric H. Smith, counsel to IIPA, introduces the group’s report with recent estimates that US core copyright industries represent 6.4 percent of the US economy, over 4 percent of all US jobs, and over $126 billion annually in revenue from foreign trade.
Of the 40 countries listed in the report, the IIPA recommends that 13 be placed on USTR’s “Priority Watch” List in 2011: These include Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Thailand, all carried over from last year, with the additions of Costa Rica, the Philippines, Spain, Ukraine, and Vietnam. The other 27 countries are recommended for the 2011 “Watch” list.
In reports from earlier years, the core focus was on physical piracy and tightening copyright enforcement to comply with international law. Increasingly, and even more so this year, the emphasis is on online piracy.
The 300-plus-page report provides several pages of analysis for each country. As an example, it cites Argentina as having seen 965 percent growth in Internet usage over the last 10 years, with 26 million users (64 percent of the population) now online. Of the entire digital music market in Argentina, piracy represents a staggering 99 percent, with more than 1.25 billion songs downloaded illegally every year.
Throughout the report, there is one common thread that also explains why certain countries are within the top 40. This is the issue of “cyberlockers.” Essentially, a cyberlocker is where users can store and share files via online digital storage. In this context, they are servers that allow users to store and share pirated movies, music, games, and software.
During 2010, entertainment software, i.e., game vendors, detected 1.44 million connections by peers participating in unauthorized file sharing on P2P networks through cyberlockers and ISPs located in Argentina. And on February 8, the MPAA filed the first lawsuit against a cyberlocker, Hotfile.com.
Here is a breakdown of a few of the big cyberlockers, which demonstrates the huge traffic and current usage they engender. To gauge the size, consider that MySpace ranks 67th in the world according to Alexa Internet Inc. ’s quantitative ranking of the world’s most visited Websites:
- Hotfile.com -- hosted in Canada, with an Alexa Rank of 56; Hotfile has 17,510 sites linking in, with the biggest audience from Japan.
- Rapidshare.com -- hosted in Switzerland; Alexa rank of 88; 91,631 sites linking in, and its biggest audience from India
- Taringa.net -- hosted in Argentina; Alexa rank of 116; 7,155 sites linking in, with its biggest audience from Mexico.
- ISOhunt.com -- hosted in Canada, Alexa rank 220; 5,991 sites linking in, with its biggest audiences in the US and Australia.
Just this simple overview highlights the problem for IIPA and the whole of the copyright industry: The cyberlockers, many of which now rank among the top 250 most visited Websites in the world, are deliberately located in countries where there are weaknesses in international copyright law enforcement. And while they are, in practice, hosted in one country, the users of the cyberlockers are from many countries.
It’s possible to take down cyberlockers, but that is similar to cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads: As one cyberlocker site is taken down, more appear in its place.
Although privacy advocates would decry such a move, perhaps IIPA needs to consider a different approach, one similar to that taken for Internet security threats such as spam and malware, where ISPs use cyberlocker blocklists to simply prevent access.
— Jart Armin, Editor of RBNexploit.com, a watch blog on the infamous RBN (Russian Business Network), and HostExploit.com