|The Pirating Elephant in Uncle Sam’s Room|
US entertainment companies are lobbying and litigating in favor of pirate site blockades around the globe. In addition, they're also urging domain registries to ban pirate sites, a practice even the US authorities are helping with. These measures are needed to protect revenues, the argument goes. But if that's the case, why is there little action on their home turf, the largest pirate nation of all?
It’s not a secret that, in sheer numbers, America is the country that harbors most online pirates.
Perhaps no surprise, since it has a large and well-connected population, but it’s important to note considering what we’re about to write today.
Over the past decade, online piracy has presented itself as a massive problem for the US and its entertainment industries. It’s a global issue that’s hard to contain, but Hollywood and the major record labels are doing what they can.
Two of the key strategies they’ve employed in recent years are website blocking and domain seizures. US companies have traveled to courts all over the world to have ISP blockades put in place, with quite a bit of success.
At the same time, US rightsholders also push foreign domain registrars and registries to suspend or seize domains. The US Government is even jumping in, applying pressure against pirate domains as well.
Previously, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica threatened to have the country’s domain name registry shut down, unless it suspended ThePirateBay.cr. This hasn’t happened, yet, but it was a clear signal.
What’s odd, though, is that ThePirateBay.cr is a relatively meaningless proxy site. The real Pirate Bay operates from an .org domain name, which happens to be managed by the US-based Public Interest Registry (PIR).
So, if the US authorities threaten to shut down Costa Rica’s domain registry over a proxy, why is the US-based PIR registry still in action? After all, it’s the registry that ‘manages’ the domain name of the largest pirate site on the entire web, and has done for nearly 15 years.
Also of note is that the entertainment industries previously launched an overseas lawsuit to seize The Pirate Bay’s .se and .is domains, but never attempted to do the same with the US-based .org domain.
There are more of these strange observations. Let’s move back to website blocking, for example.
In a detailed overview, the Motion Picture Association recently reported that ISP blocking measures, which are in place in more than two dozen countries, help to reduce piracy significantly. This is further backed up by industry-supported reports and independent academic research.
In an ideal world, the US entertainment industries would like ISPs in every country to block pirate sites. While this is all fine and understandable from the perspective of these companies, there’s also an elephant in the room.
Over the past decade, US companies have worked hard to spread their blocking message around the world, while they yet have to attempt the same on their home turf. And this happens to be the country with the most pirates of all, which could make a massive impact.
Sure, it was a major success when a court in Iceland ordered local ISPs to block The Pirate Bay. But with roughly 130,000 Internet subscriptions in the entire country, that’s peanuts compared to the US.
So why is the US, the largest “pirate nation,” ignored?
From what we’ve heard, the entertainment industries are not pushing for ISP blockades in US courts because they fear a SOPA-like backlash. This likely applies to domain suspensions as well, which aren’t all that hard to accomplish in the US.
Instead, the major entertainment companies are focusing their efforts elsewhere.
While these entertainment companies are well within their rights to lobby for these measures, there’s an elephant in the room that is hard to ignore. Personally, I can’t help but cringe every time Hollywood pushes the blocking agenda to a new country or demands domain seizures abroad.