The year 2016, keeps getting worse and worse for pirates. Now, the United States Government has (as a year ending gift to pirates perhaps) published a brand new plan in order to hunt down pirates along with pirate sites.
According to official sources, the United States government has called the new initiative, the government’s Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement.
Essentially, the joint strategic plan tries to track down pirates and piracy websites by following the traditional money trail method and lays extra emphasis on stopping piracy websites from being a viable method of making money by blocking pirate advertising.
The joint strategic plan also aims to disrupt piracy websites operations by making it difficult for people involved with copyright infringements to engage in evading tactics such as domain hopping, getting ranked higher on popular search engines like google and gaining prominence in the media through social networking websites.
The new joint strategic plan was published by the office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and, as mentioned earlier as well, it was released as a part of a Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement. The actual title of the joint strategic plan is somewhat even more cumbersome, and goes along the lines of Supporting Innovation, Creativity & Enterprise: Charting a Path Ahead.
A recent statement put out by the White House said that the Plan which incorporated views from a variety of individual stakeholders across government, industry, educational institutions, trade organizations and public interest groups offered a blueprint for the work to be carried out over the next three years by the Federal Government in supported of a healthy and robust intellectual property enforcement policy environment.
If the official statement from the white house, sounded a bit too verbose, then rest in the fact knowing that it probably is.
The official statement from the white house basically touches (rather goes into detail) four primary points or goals in other terms which are as follows,
- The joint strategic plan aims to improve the national comprehension levels of the harm that is being caused by activities such as online piracy by piracy websites.
The harmful effects of piracy aren’t just limited to copyright holders and creative artists, but piracy is also detrimental to the economic and social health of the country.
The negative impact of embezzling trade secrets along with copyright violations of intellectual property rights need to be propagated to a wider audience in order to raise awareness at a national level.
- Supporting Innovation, Creativity & Enterprise: Charting a Path Ahead (that’s the name of the joint strategic plan in case you were wondering), will also aim to publicize the internet that is vastly more safe and secure than now.
The United States government intends to achieve that by curtailing popular pirate activities such as counterfeiting content and IP-infringing. Of course, all of these pirate activities are related to the online world.
- Perhaps on a much wider scale, the joint strategic plan is said to have sufficient methods of securing and facilitating lawful trade on the internet by people who want to improve the world with their hard work and dedication.
- The United States government’s joint strategic plan has also asserted its seriousness heavily on a new term called IP enforcement.
Media sources have revealed that the joint strategic plan also aims to augment domestic and global policies that can be taken advantage of by law enforcement agencies and others to come up with improved ways of collaborating and developing strategies to combat pirates along with piracy sites.
These same domestic and global initiatives will also support operations related to effective IP enforcement.
The whole report published by the United States government, of course, is rather long. It comes in around 163 pages and that basically ensures that the Unites States government has left no stone unturned in making sure that pirates and piracy websites don’t get a free reign over the online world as far as copyright infringing and dissemination of copyrighted material is concerned.
A very important section of the 163-page report also addresses several issues related to internet piracy.
What is With the Follow The Money Method?
Most anti-piracy groups who want to see pirates along with piracy websites dead and buried forever, taking down a website by shutting down its operations is mostly considered to be the best tool to combat piracy.
In fact, many people consider shutting down piracy websites as the supreme anti-piracy tool. Law enforcement authorities all around the world, especially in the US and Europe including the UK, are now going after the one thing these law enforcement agencies believe is the source of the raw material that fuels the pirate industry. That raw material is, money.
The report published by the US government mentions this fact in no uncertain terms by stating that original content is rather costly to produce or get produced while copies of the original content cost pirates and piracy websites near to nothing which results in pirates along with piracy websites making a ton of money without doing much.
The report also stated that an effective enforcement strategy against commercial scale piracy and counterfeiting therefore, must be able to target and dry up the illicit revenue flow of the actors engaged in commercial piracy online.
It also said that in order for law enforcement agencies along with anti-piracy groups to be successful, the effort will require an examination of the revenue sources for commercial scale pirates who engage in online piracy through their piracy websites.
Moreover, the report also points out that the operators of direct illicit download and streaming sites are able to enjoy revenue through membership subscriptions serviced by way of credit card and similar payment-based transactions as was the case with the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods.
The report published by the US government also said that operators of torrent sites might have relied more heavily on advertising revenue as the primary source of income.
If the US government along with other law enforcement agencies are sincere in taking down pirates and piracy websites then there can be no doubt about the fact that all of them will have to find an efficient and effective way of cutting off the revenue streams of piracy websites which give rise to even more online piracy activity.
The report states that the government is predicting an era where people will be able to witness voluntary partnership between the banking sector and several payment processor networks along with online advertisers which will help curb online piracy activities.
US Government’s Plan Also Aims To Target Payment Processors.
The joint strategic plan report also communicated that all legitimate payment processors actually prohibited the use of their online services and platforms for unlawful conduct and that included IP-infringing activities.
Moreover, it was mentioned in the report, that yet, notwithstanding these prohibitions, payment processor platforms continued to be exploited by illicit merchants of counterfeit products and infringing content.
As far as confirmed government statements are concerned, pirates along with other counterfeiters and online piracy websites, utilized a vast number of advanced techniques which allowed them to exploit payment processor networks.
However, the government also stated that now they have deployed a system that would be able to derail test transactions that are conducted by anti-piracy groups and copyright holders along with other investigative agencies.
Moreover, a further problem for law enforcement agencies is catching and thwarting pirates and online piracy site operation is that some credit card companies have no form of direct contract-based relationships with their customers.
The customers in question include merchants who take part in piracy and other copyright-infringing activities. As a result of this situation, credit card companies unknowingly enable online websites to continue doing business with the credit card companies long after the credit card companies have terminated the payment processing rights of those websites.
As expected, the joint strategic plan has brought a lot of attention to this fact and has encouraged more coordination between online companies, credit card companies and any other company or entity present in the whole ecosystem which would lead to more transparency in online transaction and would enable law enforcement agencies to operate on a geographic scale.
The report also talks about forming bi-lateral arrangements and pacts between governments to combat pirates and piracy websites that operate online.
But that’s not all, along with everything mentioned above, the joint strategic plan report also added that IPEC (Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator ) and USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), with some help from the private sector in form of regular inputs, would facilitate benchmarking studies of current voluntary initiatives designed to combat revenue flow to rogue sites to determine whether existing voluntary initiatives were functioning effectively, and thereby promoted a robust, data-driven voluntary initiative environment.
How does stopping advertising come into play?
It should be pretty easy to see why stopping advertising revenue to reach pirates and piracy websites would make their business model suffer. In short, no money equals no way to pay the huge servers and developers costs.
The joint strategic plan report seems to have recognized that and hence, if you look at the report a little bit closely, it says right at the beginning of the document that Ad revenue is the oxygen that content theft breathes through.
After reading that comment it should become clear to anyone thinking about the future of pirates and piracy websites that governments around the world, especially the United States government (with Trump you never know, he might even bomb servers that host piracy websites and copyrighted stuff), are hell bent on suffocating pirates and piracy websites by cutting off their vital oxygen supply.
Various reports in the media have revealed that as much as 85% of the piracy websites (that includes websites that share torrent files for download without charging any cost to the downloaders and not paying a dime to the producers of the copyrighted content and streaming websites that stream copyrighted content for free without paying the original artists a single penny) cannot survive without utilizing their advertising revenue.
In other words, piracy websites of all kinds depend on ads bringing in revenue in order to operate and hence the government thinks, the best way to combat these pirates and piracy websites is to clean up the advertising sector.
And as was suggested in the case of payment processor networks, the joint strategic plan report says that ad networks who run legitimate businesses already have policies in place which can be used to stop services given to piracy websites and hence would eliminate ads that appear on various piracy websites and make them money.
Of course, the problem of clever little infringing entities (like piracy websites!) exploiting obvious loopholes to dodge law enforcement agencies and their policies has not been addressed.
And because law enforcement agencies along with anti-piracy groups have not been able to go one up on pirates and piracy websites, these copyright infringers continue to display high risk advertisements that may include some nasty stuff like malware, ransomware, pop-unders and pixel stuffing (a kind of a fraud where multiple ads are placed in a space of 1 x 1 pixel, which are invisible to the naked eye).
Needless to say, since the entertainment industry is losing a lot of revenue to pirates and piracy websites, big industry players have already made plans to collaborate even though the government seems a bit hesitant since it wants to see more cooperation and integration between them.
To put it another way, in order for law enforcement agencies to stay ahead of the methods and techniques used by pirates (or employees hired by these piracy websites such as Kickass Torrents, or the defunct kickassTorrents) to infringe copyrights, the government wants closer collaboration and that fact is clearly highlighted in the joint strategic plan report.
Have a look at what the joint strategic plan report said about the issue of blocking advertising,
“IPEC and the IPR Center (with its constituent law enforcement partners), along with other relevant Federal agencies, will convene the advertising industry to hear further about their voluntary efforts. The U.S. Interagency Strategic Planning Committees on IP Enforcement will assess opportunities to support efforts to combat the flow of ad revenue to criminals,” the JSP reads.
“As part of best practices and initiatives, advertising networks are encouraged
to make appropriately generalized and anonymized data publicly available to permit study and analysis of illicit activity intercepted on their platforms and networks. Such data will allow study by public and private actors alike to identify patterns of behavior or tactics associated with illicit actors who seek to profit from ad revenue from content theft websites.”
Apart from these maneuvers, the report also talks about other methods to stop pirates from stealing copyrighted content. Those methods include hindering the process of domain hopping and introducing new policies to upgrade the system of DMCA takedown process along with educating the general public about the negative impacts of piracy.
The report also discussed the role of social media in spreading the activities of pirates and piracy websites and suggested reforms to better control these networks.
To read the full report, go here.