Donuts and MPAA Work To Thwart Piracy, But EFF Says TLD Operators Should Not Be Content Police

Donuts logoDonuts and the US’s Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have made a joint announcement that they believe will help ensure that websites using domains registered under the Donuts operated new gTLDs are not engaged in large-scale piracy. But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is scathing of the agreement saying that “the companies and organisations that run the [DNS] shouldn’t be in the business of policing the contents of websites, or enforcing laws that can impinge on free speech.

Donuts currently operates 191 new gTLDs with 185 having entered General Availability, by far the most of any new gTLD registry, and has 1.6 million domains under management (DUM). But the MPAA is probably most interested in one of the smaller gTLDs – .movie – with less than 900 DUM.

Motion Picture Association of America MPAA logoUnder the terms of the agreement, the MPAA will be treated as a “Trusted Notifier” for the purpose of reporting large-scale pirate websites that are registered in a domain extension operated by Donuts. The agreement imposes strict standards for such referrals, including that they be accompanied by clear evidence of pervasive copyright infringement and a representation that the MPAA has first attempted to contact the registrar and hosting provider for resolution.

So it is not guaranteed that every domain reported to Donuts will be taken down. But the inference is that many, if not the vast majority, will.

The agreement specifies that Donuts will work with registrar partners to contact the website operator and seek additional evidence. If Donuts or its registrar partner determines that the website is engaged in illegal activity and thereby violates Donuts’ Acceptable Use and Anti-Abuse Policy, then they, in their discretion, may act within their already established authority to put the infringing domain on hold or suspend it.

The new programme is being touted as a voluntary best practice designed to help promote a healthier internet by mitigating blatantly illegal online activity.

“This is a groundbreaking partnership and one we’re proud to undertake,” said Donuts Co-Founder and Executive Vice President Jon Nevett. “Donuts, as the operator of .MOVIE, .THEATER, .COMPANY and almost 200 other domain extensions, is committed to a healthy domain name environment and this is another step toward a safe and secure namespace.”

“I want to thank Donuts for their leadership. This agreement demonstrates that the tech community and content creators can work together on voluntary initiatives to help ensure vibrant, legal digital marketplaces that benefit all members of the online ecosystem,” said Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA. “Filmmakers and distributers are already using the internet to offer more options than ever before for accessing online legal content, including over 115 such sites in the U.S. alone. But sites engaged in large-scale piracy threaten this continued growth and creativity, as well as the livelihoods of the 1.9 million Americans whose jobs depend on our industry.”

“Nobody questions that the internet has made possible dramatic technology innovations both for legal and illegal purposes,” said Paul Vixie, CEO of Farsight Security and longtime member of the internet and open source technical communities. “We need responsible parties to take voluntary, cooperative action against illegal activities online. I see programs like Trusted Notifier as an ideal step toward making the internet safer.”

“While this agreement is geared specifically to film and television piracy, it can also be adapted to address other illegal activity online,” Nevett said. “Hopefully, it will become a model for similar agreements that can be reached with operators in the domain name ecosystem and other internet intermediaries.”

EFF logo

EFF logo

But not everyone agrees the initiative is a good idea. It has long been viewed that top level domain operators, whether they be country codes or generic, should not be content police. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation for one is been scathing of the agreement.

The EFF is concerned that “the danger in agreements like this is that they could become a blanket policy that internet users cannot avoid. If what’s past is prologue, expect to see MPAA and other groups of powerful media companies touting the Donuts agreement as a new norm, and using it to push ICANN and governments towards making all domain name registries disable access to an entire website on a mere accusation of infringement.”

The EFF also is concerned that “other business interests, as well as governments, who want to suppress particular types of speech on the internet will jump on this bandwagon.”