Earlier this month the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a list containing names of both physical and online markets that it says are chiefly responsible for the illegal distribution of unauthorized music on a global scale.
Included in the filing to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) were a number of “notorious” non-U.S. websites that, through the active promotion of music piracy, “line the pockets of their operators without paying a cent to creators behind the content,” in the process helping to undermine the legitimate global marketplace while devaluing American products, said the RIAA.
Chief offenders include popular BitTorrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, Torrentz, BTjunkie and Demonoid, in addition to file-hosting sites like MegaUpload and RapidShare.
Russia, Mexico, China, Canada and Spain were named “Top Priority Countries” by the RIAA due to inadequate anti-piracy measures that allow the continuation of unauthorized downloading of music, movies and other copyrighted works.
Not all of the perpetrators on the list deal directly in downloadable material; for example, the RIAA also named China’s major search engine Baidu, as well as Russian social-networking site vKontakte, as piracy accomplices.
“Few if any of the links provided by Baidu connect the user to legitimate versions of copyright-protected materials,” making it one of the largest distributors of infringing music in the world, according to the said the association. Though it may not necessarily store pirated material on its servers, the RIAA maintains that “Baidu’s music service is wholly premised on inducing infringement through the provision of access to infringing materials.” Similarly, vKontakte, a Russian Facebook counterpart, was awarded “rogue” status by the RIAA because it allows members to freely upload a variety of copyrighted media, including music, photo and video files.
The RIAA missive comes on the heels of a separate report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), whose own “most notorious markets” list features many of the names cited in the RIAA filing. While far from complete, the MPAA list nevertheless indicates “the scope and scale of global content theft and introduces some of the ongoing challenges rights holders confront in protecting their intellectual property,” remarked Bob Pisano, interim CEO and MPAA president.
Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive vice-president, said that association members fully understand and are enthusiastic about the vast potential of the Internet and related technologies as a means of providing efficient distribution to listeners worldwide. Unfortunately, said Turkewitz, “this potential remains largely unrealized — mired in a morass of piracy. We hope that this process will be helpful in illuminating the practices of some of the worst actors in global markets, and that by addressing these markets, we can take a big step towards creating greater accountability that will expand opportunities for legitimate commerce.”
Music-industry representatives like the RIAA believe that visibility is key to greater awareness and, ultimately, increased legal intervention. In late October, U.S. federal court judge Kimba Wood issued an injunction against LimeWire, a peer-to-peer file-sharing platform, in the process rendering newer versions of LimeWire installations inactive (earlier versions remain functional, however, and cannot be disabled unless the user upgrades to versions 5.5.11 or higher).