The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) today released its annual 'notorious markets' report that lists various illicit online websites and physical markets that pose threat to the U.S. creative communities.
Specifically, the report calls out the emerging threat posed by stream ripping, which industry analysts have described as the fastest growing form of online music theft.
A study from the Inter-national Federation of the Phonographic Industry shows that stream ripping is on the rise in the world's leading music markets. Nearly 30 percent of Internet users obtain unauthorized copies of music from stream ripping services.
The report is highlighting sites that traffic in unauthorized music and other creative works. In particular, USTR has cited illicit stream ripping as a priority issue, specifically calling out youtube-mp3.org.
Alibaba's online Chinese marketplace Taobao.com marketplace is also included the 'Notorious Markets'list, despite the company's efforts to track and exclude listings of counterfeit goods.
The decision damages Alibaba's credibility in the U.S., where its shares trade and it's trying to cultivate relationships with retailers, brands and entertainment companies.
Alibaba Group President Michael Evans claims that the USTR's decision leads the company "to question whether the USTR acted based on the actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate."
Evans claims that in 2016 alone, Alibaba doubled over 2015 the number of infringing product listings it proactively removed from its site. "It is therefore unreasonable for the USTR to have concluded that Alibaba is less effective in anti-counterfeiting than when it reviewed our efforts in 2015 and when it removed us from its list four years ago," he said in a statement Wednesday.
In October, Alibaba said it had tightened policies against copyright infringement and made it easier for brands to request fakes be removed. It took down 380 million product listings and closed about 180,000 stores on its Taobao platform in the 12 months to August, the company said in a letter to the USTR.
The 2016 List of notorious online markets includes the following web sites:
4SHARED.COM - provides legitimate file-storage services, but also facilitates the streaming and downloading of high volumes of allegedly pirated videos, music, books, and video games. 4Shared is registered to an entity in the British Virgin Islands and hosted by a company in Cyprus.
BEEVIDEO.TV - an application that facilitates the viewing of allegedly infringing movies and television shows on smart TVs through set-top boxes, and on mobile devices. The developer and operator of BeeVideo is allegedly based in China.
Bookfi.net and Libgen.io reportedly make available for download millions of books and other publications, a significant number of which are distributed without the consent of copyright holders. Information about the registrants and operators of the Bookfi and Libgen family of sites is obscured but Libgen is allegedly based in Russia. Bookfi.net is hosted in the Netherlands and brings in revenue through gift card donations. Libgen has been the subject of court-ordered enforcement action in the United Kingdom, but continues to operate.
ExtraTorrent continues to benefit from Ukraine's status as a haven for online piracy. In addition to allegedly infringing content, ExtraTorrent has also been identified as a source of malware.
GONGCHANG.COM - The business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform GongChang is reportedly one of several online markets in China that are well-known for the sale of counterfeits, including counterfeit security tags that retailers affix to products as part of a shoplifting prevention system.
MOVSHARE GROUP - This group of affiliated and extremely popular sites, with ties to Switzerland, Sweden,
France, the Netherlands, Panama, and other countries, reportedly uses multiple technologies to make available unauthorized copies of movies, games, music, audio-books, software, and sporting event broadcasts. Right holders report that Nowvideo and others in the Movshare group are entirely unresponsive to takedown notices.
MP3VA.COM - This site is one of several based in Russia and Ukraine that allegedly engages in the unauthorized sale of U.S. sound recordings. The hosting provider is located in Russia and the operators appear to be located in Ukraine.
MUABAN.NET - Muaban is one of several Vietnamese e-commerce platforms nominated this year. Although this Vietnam-based online marketplace facilitates sales of legitimate goods, stakeholders have identified this site as one that also offers counterfeit apparel and footwear. The site is hosted in Russia
and, like five other listed sites this year, uses the country code top-level domain of Tonga (.to).
M Y E G Y.T O - MyEgy is one of the largest marketplaces for infringing video game and other copyrighted content in the Middle East. The site is hosted in Russia and, like five other listed sites this year, uses the country code top-level domain of Tonga (.to).
NANJING IMPERIOSUS TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD - Also operating as DOMAINERSCHOICE.COM - Nanjing Imperiosus, based in China, is reported to disproportionately provide services to illegal online pharmacies.
POBIERAMY24.PL, DARKWAREZ.PL, CATSHARE.NET, & FILESHARK.PL - These sites all share connections to Poland and together represent a major hub of allegedly infringing video games. Between the four sites, over a hundred thousand links to allegedly infringing video game files are indexed, directing users to over a hundred thousand files stored in cyberlockers.
PRIVATE LAYER-HOSTED SITES Including THE-WATCH-SERIES.TO and PROJECTFREE-TV.TO - This group of websites, all hosted by Switzerland- and Panama-based Private Layer, is an example of the popularity among a wide variety of pirate sites of certain Swiss hosting services. Switzerland has announced plans to close a loophole in its law that restricts enforcement against pirate sites. Other listed and nominated sites, including Putlocker, 1337x.to, Primewire.ag, and Nowvideo.sx may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.
PUTLOCKER.CH - Formerly PUTLOCKER.IS - Putlocker is one of the most-visited video streaming sites in the Asia-Pacific region for allegedly pirated movies and television shows. The operator of Putlocker is believed to be based in Vietnam and appears to be taking actions to evade enforcement measures.
RARBG.TO - This site, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was nominated by commenters from the movie, television, and music industries and is quickly gaining popularity as prominent competitor sites like KickassTorrents and Torrentz.eu have closed. Although Rarbg has been the subject of enforcement and voluntary actions in the United Kingdom and Portugal, it still continues to operate.
RUTRACKER.ORG & RAPIDGATOR.ORG - Formerly TORRENTS.RU
Commenters from the book publishing, movie, and music industries all nominated Rapidgator for inclusion on this year's List. Rapidgator is hosted in Russia but primarily provides allegedly infringing content to users outside of the country. Rapidgator employs rewards and affiliate schemes to compensate users based on downloads and sales of new accounts. The site is currently one of the most popular in the world.
TAOBAO.COM - The Taobao.com e-commerce platform is an important concern due to the large volume of allegedly counterfeit and pirated goods available and the challenges right holders experience in removing and preventing illicit sales and offers of such goods. Taobao's parent company, the Alibaba Group, reportedly has taken steps to address right holders' concerns.
THE PIRATE BAY - Despite enforcement actions around the world and drawn-out legal battles against its operators, The Pirate Bay is of symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites for admittedly illegal downloads of movies, television, music, and other copyrighted content. The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action.
UPLOADED.NET - Formerly UL.TO and UPLOADED.TO - This cyberlocker reportedly provides access to a broad range of unauthorized copies of copyright-protected content such as books, movies, television, and music, including pre-release music. Uploaded is owned by a Swiss company and is hosted in the Netherlands.
feit security tags and circumvention devices and services.
VK.COM - Also known as VKONTAKTE.COM - VK is one of the most popular sites in the world and continues to operate as an extremely popular social networking site in Russia and neighboring countries. VK reportedly facilitates the distribution of copyright-infringing files.
YOUTUBE-MP3.ORG - Youtube-mp3 is one of the most popular stream ripping sites - the web site allegedly accounts for about 40 percent of the world's stream ripping activity. The operator is located in Germany and legal action in multiple jurisdictions is ongoing.