SOPA, anyone? Entertainment Lobby Uses Hearing on Domain Names to Revive Awful Censorship Idea

For many years, major U.S. entertainment companies have been trying to gain the power to make websites disappear from the Internet at their say-so. The Internet blacklist bills SOPA and PIPA were part of that strategy, along with the Department of Homeland Security’s project of seizing websites that someone accused of copyright infringement. Hollywood’s quest for more censorship power was on display again today at a House of Representatives committee hearing that was supposed to be discussing reforms at ICANN, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet’s domain name system. Amidst a discussion of new top-level domain names (such as “.sucks”), a lawyer representing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other groups told the House Judiciary Committee’s Internet subcommittee that ICANN should force the companies that register domain names to suspend domains based on accusations of copyright infringement.

If this sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s exactly the sort of system that the disastrous SOPA bill would have created—one where entire websites can be forced to go dark, without a day in court, because some material on the site is accused of infringing a copyright. We wrote about this strategy in March, when it appeared in the US Trade Representative’s “Notorious Markets List,” also at Hollywood’s request.

This new strategy to obtain censorship power is based on vague language in the agreements that ICANN made with the companies selling names in new top-level domains like .website, .ninja, and .biz. The agreements say that domain name registrars “shall take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse.” The agreements don’t mention copyright, or require domain registrars to disable a domain without a court order. But that didn’t stop Steve Metalitz, the lawyer for a coalition that includes MPAA and RIAA, from arguing that “reports of abuse that are submitted to registrars by right-holders” should lead to “investigation” and “redress.” Of course, a registrar like Tucows or Namecheap has no control over the contents of websites—they simply register domain names. From a technical standpoint, the only “redress” a registrar can offer to a copyright holder such as a movie studio is to suspend a site’s domain name, making the entire site inaccessible to most visitors.

Link (EFF)

Mega Ponders Legal Action in Response to Damaging Paypal Ban

September last year the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a report that looked into the business models of “shadowy” file-storage sites.

Titled “Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions,” the report offers insight into the money streams that end up at these alleged pirate sites.

The research claims that the sites in question are mostly used for copyright infringement. But while there are indeed many shadowy hosting services, many were surprised to see the Kim Dotcom-founded Mega.co.nz on there.

For entertainment industry groups the report offered an opportunity to put pressure on Visa and MasterCard. In doing so they received support from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who was also the lead sponsor of the defunct controversial Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Senator Leahy wrote a letter to the credit card companies claiming that the sites mentioned in the report have “no legitimate purpose or activity,” hoping they would cut their connections to the mentioned sites.

Visa and MasterCard took these concerns to heart and pressed PayPal to cut off its services to Mega, which eventually happened late last month. Interestingly, PayPal cited Mega’s end-to-end-encryption as one of the key problems, as that would make it harder to see what files users store.

The PayPal ban has been a huge blow for Mega, both reputation-wise and financially. And the realization that the controversial NetNames report is one of the main facilitators of the problems is all the more frustrating.

TorrentFreak spoke with CEO Graham Gaylard, who previously characterized the report as “grossly untrue and highly defamatory,” to discuss whether Mega still intends to take steps against the UK-based NetNames for their accusations.

Initially, taking legal action against NetNames for defamation was difficult, as UK law requires the complaining party to show economic damage. However, after the PayPal ban this shouldn’t be hard to do.

Gaylard is traveling through Europe at the moment and he notes that possible repercussions against the damaging report are high on the agenda.

“Yes, I am here to see Mega’s London-based legal counsel to discuss the next steps in progressing the NetNames’ response,” Gaylard informs TF.

Mega’s CEO couldn’t release any details on a possible defamation lawsuit, but he stressed that his company will fiercely defend itself against smear campaigns.

“Mega has been operating, and continues to operate a completely legitimate and transparent business. Unfortunately now, with the blatant, obvious, political pressure and industry lobbying against Mega, Mega needs to defend itself and will now cease taking a passive stance,” Gaylard says.

According to the CEO Mega is running a perfectly legal business. The allegation that it’s a piracy haven is completely fabricated. Like any other storage provider, there is copyrighted content on Mega’s servers, but that’s a tiny fraction of the total stored.

To illustrate this, Gaylard mentions that they only receive a few hundred takedown notices per month. In addition, he notes more than 99.7% of the 18 million files that are uploaded per day are smaller than 20MB in size, not enough to share a movie or TV-show.

These statistics are certainly not the hallmark of a service with “no legitimate purpose or activity,” as was claimed.

While the PayPal ban is a major setback, Mega is still doing well in terms of growth. They have 15 million registered customers across 200 countries, and hundreds of thousands of new users join every month.

Link (TorrentFreak)