Lawmakers Urge Verisign to Take More Anti-Piracy Measures –

For much of the last decade, the strategy of Hollywood studios and content creators in the fight against piracy has been to ensure the cooperation of Internet companies and related ecosystem participants.

Earlier this year, MPA Chairman Charles Rivkin signals a new level of cooperation with Google, after several years in which the search giant was condemned for its lack of attention to the fight against copyright infringement.

More recently, attention has been focused on the largest domain name registry, Verisign, and lawmakers asked the company why it still refuses to join an initiative to identify and eventually take down flagrant infringing websites. Such agreements are referred to as “trusted notifier” mechanisms, whereby the registry or registrar is provided with accurate information about the illegal content of websites, which ultimately results in the sites being taken down.

“Verisign serves as the registry for nearly half of all domain name registrations,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to the company last spring. “Therefore, the company has a unique opportunity to help curb this illegal activity. His inability to do so has contributed greatly to the sheer scale of the problem.”

Among those who signed the letter were Senator Maisie Hirono (D-California), Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-FL), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Rep. Judy Chu (D-California), Senator Raphael Warnock (D-C). D-GA) and Senator Christopher Koons (D-DE).

The company responded to lawmakers by saying it had initiated discussions with industry leaders “with a view to partnering with state and federal authorities.”

But Verisign CEO Jim Bidzos also wrote that the company was cautious about doing so, given an agreement with the Commerce Department almost three decades ago “requiring that we operate in a neutral manner.”

“This is a unique commitment,” he wrote. “This means that Verisign does not design its infrastructure or adopt operating policies based on our own views on the content that may be associated with the use of our services. We are not a content platform and do not publish content.”

He suggested that while they recognize the need to “establish the competence and legitimacy of trusted notifiers”, there are also concerns about “due process, transparency, proportionality, provenance and recourse for affected parties”. A decade ago, this was of concern to opponents led by big internet companies of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the flagship anti-piracy law that was sidelined by unprecedented online protest.

Since then, the content industry has focused its efforts on voluntary agreements with domain name registrars and other members of the Internet ecosystem to stop support for pirate sites that are out of the reach of US law enforcement. Some public interest groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, have raised concerns that legitimate sites will be taken over by anti-piracy efforts, but lawmakers said in their letter that notifier trust partnerships have “been operating successfully for several years” without any or serious consequences. questions.

In his response, Bidzos also pointed out areas where Verisign has tried to curb “DNS abuse.” He wrote that Verisign was part of programs to combat the sale of illicit opioids, Covid online scams and security threats that led to domain name shutdowns, and “we believe the protocols and processes we have developed can also be used to address domain names. associated with illegal theft of copyright.

Content and industry groups, including CreativeFuture, note that other domain registrars have had trust relationships with notifiers for years, leading lawmakers to question why Verisign hasn’t yet entered into a similar arrangement.

Dean Marks, former executive director and legal counsel for the Coalition for Online Accountability, said that when a registry suspends a website’s domain name, “it essentially becomes unavailable on the Internet.” He said major registries such as Donuts, now known as Indentity Digital, and Radix have been using trusted notification mechanisms for more than six years.

“These arrangements work well for both copyright holders and registries,” Marks said in a statement. “Yet despite being the largest domain registry in the world and a publicly traded company in the US, Verisign has consistently refused to enter into similar agreements with trusted notifiers to combat known infringing websites operating under their domains.” .

In a statement to, Hirono said she “will continue to push them to take this responsibility with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.”

“Letting digital piracy run amok is costing hundreds of thousands of American jobs and costing our economy billions of dollars. Digital piracy leaves consumers vulnerable to malware, phishing, scams and other serious online risks,” she said. “Domain name registration companies have a responsibility to protect creators and consumers by working to end online copyright piracy.”

In their letter, lawmakers noted that with the rise of streaming during the pandemic, streaming piracy has increased as well, as they cited data from anti-piracy research firm MUSO showing a 33 percent spike in online rights violations. They also cited a study by Internet analytics firm Similarweb showing that in the US alone, the top five Verisign domain names used by piracy sites have more than 150 million monthly visits.

Ruth Vitale, CEO of CreativeFuture, said that Verisign “has the ability to stop serving websites that commit massive online infringement that is taking money out of the pockets of millions of hard-working Americans in our nation’s film and television business. Our community has been asking Verisign for years for help disabling piracy website domain names, and members of Congress have also asked for it. However, to our disappointment, Verisign is refusing to take any significant action despite other registries having successfully done so.”

Verisign did not respond to requests for comment.

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