U.S. Trade Representative Identifies ‘Notorious’ Piracy Sites

Putlocker.com, Rapidshare.com and The PirateBay.se have enjoyed huge traffic on the Internet, but they also have earned a distinction of being among the most “notorious” online sites when it comes to piracy.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Wednesday will release the annual list of “notorious” marketplaces, online and physical marketplaces that “reportedly engage in and facilitate substantial piracy and counterfeiting.”

According to an advanced release of the report, 23 sites made the list, which Froman’s office compiled after public input, including filings from the Motion Picture Assn. of American and the Recording Industry Assn. of America. The sites were identified because they have been subject to enforcement actions or they may warrant further investigation.

Putlocker.com, for instance, is a cyberlocker in the U.K. that offers streaming and downloading of extremely large video files, and since its launch in 2010 “has become one of the most popular streaming hubs in the world,” according to the trade rep’s report. “Although the site operator has reportedly ceased the previous practice of compensating users for uploads and has instituted a relatively quick notice and takedown process, the site continues to make available significant amounts of pirated content,” the report states.

Rapidshare.com, the report says, has diminished in popularity but “remains one of the most active sites worldwide.” A Czech director won a $26,000 judgment against the site for illegal distribution of one of his movies, and it was upheld on appeal.

The PirateBay.se, based in Sweden, “continues to navigate the globe” and the domain name system to “facilitate user downloading of unauthorized copyright-protected content.” The U.S. Trade Rep’s report claims that “the site released its own web browser designed to evade network controls and reportedly plans to offer software to circumvent conventional methods of enforcement.’

Other sites listed in the report include Aiseesoft.com, Baixedetudo.net, Darkwarez.pl, Ex.ua, Extratorrent.cc, Free-tv-video-online.me, KickassTorrents.com, Kuaibo.com, Mp3skull.com, Rapidgator.net, Rutracker.org, Seriesyonkis.com, SlySoft.com, Torrentz.eu, Uploaded.net, vKontakte.com, Wawa-mania.ec, Xunlei.com/Kankan.com, Zamunda.net/Arenabg.com and Zing.vn.

Some sites were removed from the list, including IsoHunt.com, which agreed to shut down last year as part of a $110 million settlement agreement in federal court last year. China’s GouGou.com was removed from the list after its operator shut it down. Another Chinese site, PaiPai.com, was removed from the list after it streamlined its notice and takedown procedures and accelerated its response to complaints, according to the report. One of China’s largest sites, Baidu.com, was removed in 2011 after it entered into a licensing agreement with U.S. copyright owners.

The report also identified a number of “notorious” physical markets, including several markets at the Garment Wholesale Center in Guangzhou, China, and Nehru Place and Gaffar Market in New Dehli, India. Pulga Rio Market in Mexico was removed from the list after it was the target of law enforcement action, as was the Urdu Bazaars in Pakistan.

In a statement, Froman said that the “markets we have identified unfairly take from …American workers, diminishing the value and salability of their work and threatening their jobs.”

Update: With attention on Sochi and the Winter Olympics, the RIAA singled out Russian site vKontakte, noting that this was the fourth time the social media site was on the list. “VKontakte has clearly made a cold, calculated business decision to forgo licenses and serve up access to infringing music,” said Neil Turkewitz, exec VP of International RIAA. The trade organization says that the site is the most popular online social network in Russia and, citing figures from Alexa, is the 22nd most popular site worldwide.

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