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Does US government’s annual anti-piracy report just promote piracy?

By | Published on Tuesday 24 November 2020

Piracy / Hacker

A former criminal defence practitioner in the US has written to the US Trade Representative regarding its annual notorious markets report arguing that said report is actually counter-productive, in that it mainly provides a useful directory of all the piracy websites people might want to check out.

There are actually two elements to the annual intellectual property report put together by the office of the US Trade Representative. The first outlines which countries have work to do regarding the protection of intellectual property rights, and the second lists those piracy websites (or similar) that are causing most concerns to the IP-owing companies of America.

The idea is that it allows the US government to put pressure on foreign governments to crack down on piracy in general and certain piracy sites specifically. And to that end, trade groups repping copyright industries, like the music industry, make submissions about their current top piracy gripes as the annual report is put together.

However, Las Vegas-based Daniel Lee – who says he is mainly writing to the USTR as a “concerned taxpayer” – reckons that all the work that goes into compiling the notorious markets report is not a good use of government time or taxpayer money. Nor does it help American copyright owners, because it actually provides free promotion for the piracy sites that get listed in it.

Each year, Lee writes in his letter, published by Torrentfreak, the list of top piracy sites published by the USTR gets media attention, giving all the sites contained in that list more exposure.

Given how few of the listed sites actually get shut down – and when they are, it’s usually because of legal action by rights owners in other countries, not because it appeared in the USTR report – “at best these lists have had little to no effect for taxpayer money … and at worst they have actually promoted the very sites they purport to attempt to take down”.

“At a time when COVID and years of trade war have decimated the American economy”, he adds, “it seems particularly absurd for the American taxpayer to take up such frivolous expenditures particularly when [IP owners] can easily submit legally compliant requests overseas instead”.

It’s unlikely Lee’s complaint will result in the USTR abandoning its notorious markets reports. But at least, by us reporting on his letter, we’ve helped promote the fact that said report doubles up as annual directory of piracy services to anyone who hadn’t worked that out yet. So that’s fun.