Thousands of pirate sites are listed on WIPO’s advertising blacklist * TorrentFreak
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The block list of pirate sites maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has grown to include more than 5,000 domain names. The list is maintained by journalists from various countries and is used by various large advertising companies to prevent money from flowing to pirate sites. All the details on this block list remain a mystery, for now.
Most pirate sites and apps won’t survive without ad revenue. This is why the advertising industry is seen as an ally in the fight against piracy.
Over the years, several advertising-focused anti-piracy initiatives have sprung up. In the UK, hundreds of advertising agencies have started banning pirate sites, and the European Union has intervened as well.
PMOI’s Hacker Block List
These initiatives are relatively local while many pirate sites cater to a global audience. This lack of coordination has motivated the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to develop a globally coordinated system, with contributions from around the world.
WIPO, part of the United Nations, was founded over 50 years ago to protect intellectual property. This includes the fight against online piracy, something he hopes to facilitate with his blacklist.
The idea of ââsuch a global database was first introduced by WIPO in 2017 and, behind the scenes, it has been developed into a fully operational resource. It was initially deployed under the database name “BRIP”, short for “Building Respect for Intellectual Property”, but was later renamed “WIPO Alert”.
Cut advertising revenue
The goal of the project is simple: to enable stakeholders in Member States to flag problematic sites and share the resulting list with advertisers, so they can block bad apples. This should result in less money for the pirate sites, which would make it more difficult for them to generate profit.
At present, little is known about the effectiveness of WIPO’s alert system as the organization and its partners have not released many details. What we do know is that at the start of the year 5,800 domain names were flagged as “copyright infringing” sites.
Needless to say, this is a massive blockade campaign, arguably one of the largest in the world. What is concerning, however, is that there is little information available on the sites included.
WIPO cannot guarantee the accuracy
As we have pointed out in the past, WIPO states that it cannot guarantee that websites listed in its system actually infringe copyright. This responsibility rests entirely with the reporting organizations.
âWIPO is simply providing a service to its Member States and the international advertising industry by facilitating global access to data compiled nationally. The national agencies which create the lists of sites remain solely responsible for their content, âwrites the organization in its FAQ.
Initially, it was not known who these national news agencies were, but WIPO has made progress on this front. There is now a public page that shows which organizations maintain blocklists.
The list of reported organizations includes Roskomnadzor from Russia, AGCOM Agency from Italy, CODA from Japan, Copyright Protection Agency from Korea, RTCL from Lithuania and a department of the Spanish government. Some blocking agencies publish details of blocked sites, but others intentionally keep them in public view.
A few weeks ago, we reached out to WIPO to ask for more details about the system and blocked URLs. Despite confirmation that our request had been received, there was no response. When we tried again this week, the PMOI continued to be silent.
While we have no reason to believe that most of the sites in the “WIPO Alert” database are in fact infringing, the current system makes it difficult to verify and detect potential errors. This can cause serious problems.
National rules differ
Russian Roskomnadzor, for example, previously asked local ISPs to block 13.5 million Amazon IP addresses to prevent subscribers from accessing the Zello app. And the same organization is also cracking down on “unauthorized” VPNs and has threatened to block Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The above examples are not strictly related to copyright, but they show that blocking standards can be very different from country to country. On its website, WIPO acknowledges this by pointing out that flagged sites are considered to infringe copyright on the basis of ânational rulesâ.
The different standards are also apparent when we look at the sites and services that copyright holders report to the U.S. Trade Representative as notorious piracy markets. Just a few weeks ago, the MPA flagged Telegram as a hack safe haven, and Russian social networking site VK.com was also called up.
Interestingly, the MPA also flagged advertising company PopAds as a notorious hacking market. This, despite the fact that PopAds actively uses the WIPO alert system to block pirate sites.
There is no evidence that any of the above mentioned services are on the WIPO block list. But that is exactly the problem. Right now, there is no way to verify and review one of the biggest blocking operations on the internet.
WIPO stresses that its alert system helps brands avoid the negative reputational effect they may face when their ads appear on pirate sites. Nothing is said, however, about the potential damage to the reputation of the WIPO alert system that could occur if a legitimate site inadvertently ends up on its list.