Another ally joins the war against online pirates

The battle against online piracy has been fought on many fronts, and today came news that another had opened with the announcement that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Donuts, a the largest registrar for the new domain extensions have come to an agreement to thwart online piracy. The development is good news for creators of every stripe.

The agreement outlines ‘best practices’ in dealing with sites reported as being “large-scale” pirate operations:

Under the terms of the agreement, the MPAA will be treated as a “Trusted Notifier” for the purpose of reporting large-scale pirate websites that are registered in a domain extension operated by Donuts. The agreement imposes strict standards for such
referrals, including that they be accompanied by clear evidence of pervasive copyright infringement and a representation that the MPAA has first attempted to contact the registrar and hosting provider for resolution.
The agreement specifies that Donuts will work with registrar partners to contact the website operator and seek additional evidence. If Donuts or its registrar partner determines that the website is engaged in illegal activity and thereby violates Donuts’ Acceptable Use and Anti-Abuse Policy, then they, in their discretion, may act within their already established authority to put the infringing domain on hold or suspend it.
Domain registrar pirate websiteAn agreement like this is particularly significant because, in many cases, operators of pirate websites simply ignore DMCA takedown notices.  Just yesterday I was forced to send a DMCA notice via GoDaddy because the pirate website (which offered dozens of illegal movie streams) offered no contact information nor DMCA takedown mechanism on its website.
When I did a WHOIS search I discovered that the domain is registered through GoDaddy and the server is operated by Cloudflare, both companies headquartered in the U.S. The contact information for the owner of the pirate site is to private–hidden by domainsbyproxyso the only emails listed were through (domain-name)@domainbyproxy or [email protected]  GoDaddy claims it will take action against customers who don’t respond in a timely fashion to DMCA complaints:

Please be aware that if we receive a complete DMCA claim concerning content on an account you host, and you do not act quickly to resolve the issue, it might be necessary for us to disable access to your hosting account to remain in compliance with the DMCA.

Unfortunately, we can’t suspend your customers’ individual hosting accounts. To comply with DMCA, our only option is to suspend the entire Reseller Hosting account, including all of the customers’ accounts it supports.

Safe-guarding one’s work online is a daunting task so having domain registrars cooperate in the process is crucial, and while there are plenty of pirate sites that use registrars outside the bounds of U.S. law, today’s announcement seems is another nail in coffin for pirate profiteers.  As Donuts Co-Founder and Executive Vice President Jon Nevett notes:
This is a groundbreaking partnership and one we’re proud to undertake. Donuts, as the operator of .MOVIE, .THEATER, .COMPANY and almost 200 other domain extensions
is committed to a healthy domain name environment and this is another step toward a safe and secure namespace.
Slowly, like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, the blood supply feeding the ‘business’ of online piracy is being clamped.   As various entities–advertisers, ISPs, domain hosts–continue to cooperate and work to adopt ‘best practices’ against online piracy, the eco-system that gave rise to an explosion in unfettered piracy finally appears to be crumbling.
That doesn’t mean more battles don’t lie ahead.  Just this week came news of a plugin that allows users to stream torrents directly on torrent sites like The Pirate Bay.  But for now–I’ll take this announcement as a victory–and a further sign that the tide is gradually turning against those who profit from piracy by stealing the work (and livelihoods) of others.