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4th Mar 2024

EU hosts majority of 'notorious' pirate websites

  • The US trade chief said piracy harms America's creative industries (Photo: J Sonder)

Ten of the world’s 23 most “notorious” pirate websites are based in EU countries, while another five are in Russia or Ukraine, the US government says.

The report, published on Wednesday (12 February), by The Office of the United States Trade Department Representative, lists websites which “undermine critical US comparative advantages in innovation and creativity to the detriment of American workers” due to their “global … scale and popularity.”

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The EU list includes: baixedetudo.net (Sweden); darkwarez.pl (Poland); mp3skull.com (UK); putlocker.com (UK); rapidshare.com (Czech Republic); seriesyonkis.com (Spain); thepiratebay.se (Sweden); uploaded.net (Netherlands); wawa-mania.ec (France); and zamunda.net (Bulgaria).

Another one, torrentz.eu, is said to be hosted in Canada or Finland, while rapidgator.net, is said to have moved from the UK to Russia. Russia is also reported as the home of rutracker.org and vkontakte.com. Ukraine is named for ex.ua and extratorrent.cc.

The rest are either in Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, China, or Vietnam.

The sites mainly distribute movies, TV shows, music, books, and video games, many of which originate in the US.

China is also shamed as a principal source of fake merchandise, including counterfeit medicines, which “pose health and safety risks to consumers.”

Physical markets are said to be the main distributors, but “the internet is [also] host to innumerable sites that facilitate the distribution of counterfeit products.”

The trade department notes it is hard to track developments on who is selling what from where because “it is common for operators of notorious online markets to change a site’s domain name or to use multiple domain names at once to direct users to their site.”

In one example, the US says that “despite the criminal conviction of its founders,” thepiratebay.se “continues to navigate the globe and the country code top level domain (ccTLD) system … to search for a permanent home after being swiftly shut down by government authorities in several countries, most recently in Peru, Chile, and Guyana.”

It adds “at last report, the operators have returned the site registration to Sweden.”

Zamunda.net is also facing criminal charges in Bulgaria, but has spawned mirror sites in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

On wawa-mania.ec, the US lists it as one of the most popular sites in France, but adds “we understand that the servers are [now] located elsewhere” and that its owner “left the country.”

The report testifies to the increasing popularity of pirate content among otherwise law-abiding consumers.

It says torrentz.eu is in the top 160 most visited websites in the world and rutracker.org is in the top 240, while, in national terms, seriesyonkis.com is in the top 40 in Spain.

It also cites a “dramatic increase” in use traffic on uploaded.net and says the number of files on darkwarez.pl “tripled” last year.

The man who signed off on the survey, US trade representative Michael Froman, is currently in charge of talks on the future EU-US free trade pact.

But it remains unclear to what extent the treaty will govern intellectual property disputes.

The range of penalties imposed by host states on copyright abusers currently varies from criminal charges and multi-million-dollar fines, to, for instance, fines of just $662 per head for people in Bulgaria.

In the offline world, the EU’s top court in Luxembourg recently struck a blow against counterfeit traders, however.

It said in a ruling last week that EU citizens who buy counterfeit goods on the internet are breaking EU laws. The case arose after Rolex ordered Martin Blomqvist, a Danish national, to destroy a fake watch which he bought on a Chinese website.

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