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The pirate site blacklist for advertisers, managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), now has more than 7,000 domain names, of which 4,000 are active. To make the WIPO Alerts system more transparent, the public can now search to see if a specific site is listed and, if so, by which country it was reported.
Around the world, there are a variety of blocking programs targeting pirate sites. Some require ISPs to block access, while others focus on advertisers.
The idea behind ad blacklisting is that pirate sites are unable to survive without revenue. While not a magic bullet, there is anecdotal evidence that this strategy can be effective.
Ad blocking lists aren’t new, but until a few years ago they were relatively local. Pirate sites, however, often cater to a global audience. This lack of coordination has motivated the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to develop a global system based on contributions from countries around the world.
PMOI Alert Block List
WIPO, which is part of the United Nations, was founded more than 50 years ago with the aim of protecting intellectual property. This includes tackling online piracy, something he hopes to facilitate with his “WIPO Alert“block list.
The goal of the project is simple; allow stakeholders in member states to flag problematic sites and share the resulting list with advertisers, so they can block bad apples. This should translate into less money for pirate sites, making it harder for them to generate profits.
The “WIPO Alert” system remained largely under the radar, but we kept a close eye on the project. So far, 11 countries are participating; Brazil, Ecuador, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
The number of domain names included in the databases is also growing rapidly, but it is difficult to track the changes as WIPO does not publish many details in public.
This limited transparency is not WIPO’s choice. Speaking to TorrentFreak, WIPO legal counsel Thomas Dillon explains that many participating countries prefer to keep details private, as they don’t want to “promote” pirate sites.
“What is holding us back from releasing the database is that some participating contributors consider it undesirable to make their listings generally available, as it would advertise the infringing websites.
“The PMOI is therefore really obliged to leave the question of publication to the decision at the national level,” adds Dillon.
7,717 domains, 4,042 active
The organization tries to disseminate as much information as possible within these restrictions and has been kind enough to share a few additional details. For example, that there are now 7,717 domains listed in the database.
Pirate sites come and go and some change domains so many of the names listed are no longer active. According to the WIPO, 4,042 of the domain names in its database currently point to a functional site.
Without sharing any names, the PMOI said the majority of targeted sites have a .com domain, followed by .net, .ru and .org.
In the interests of greater transparency, the organization made another major change a few days ago. The public is now allowed to search the database to see if a specific domain is listed.
Not all countries have signed up for this. So far, Italy, Russia, Spain, Peru, Ecuador and Lithuania have agreed to add domains to the searchable part of the WIPO Alert database, but not all information is not yet complete as they are still being rolled out.
As indicated above, a Rapid search for “thepiratebay.org” reveals that it is ad blacklisted in Italy and Spain, while “fmovies.to” is blocked in Lithuania and Italy.
With increased transparency, WIPO makes it easier for site operators to check whether they are listed and potentially appealable. Until recently this was not possible.
“We are constantly trying to improve the system – in this case, site operators who are concerned about their sites being listed on WIPO ALERT can carry out a check and contact the relevant national authority if necessary,” Dillon tells us.
The PMOI itself remains a neutral intermediary that merely operates and facilitates the blocked list system. The organization does not proactively notify site operators to let them know they are being targeted.
“WIPO does not attempt to contact affected domain operators – notice and appeal procedures are left to national agencies,” Dillon notes.
Similarly, WIPO does not assess whether a site should be blocked or not, it simply takes into account the recommendations of participating countries, which often have their own checks and balances.
14 advertising companies
The effectiveness of the ad block list does not only depend on the number of domains listed. Equally important is the number of advertising companies that participate.
The WIPO Alerts system is free and open to all advertising agencies. So far, fourteen commercial companies and three professional organizations have joined and WIPO informs us that it is in the process of signing another international media group.
Blocking brand advertisements on pirate sites has an undeniable effect since it limits the advertising possibilities of pirate sites. However, it remains to be seen how effective it is in cutting the money supply, as there are still plenty of advertisers willing to team up with hackers.
With the arrival of more advertisers and the blocking of new domain names each year, we expect the database of WIPO alerts to grow accordingly. We plan to come back next year to see how things stand.