Russia Piracy Blocking: Four Thousand 'Pirate' Sites Blocked... Along With Forty Thousand Sites Worth Of Collateral Damage

from the super-effective dept

We've long talked about the problems that come along with government mandating ISPs to act as copyright police by blocking so-called "pirate" websites. The issues with these attempts are many, ranging from their muted impact on piracy to concerns over just how a website is deemed to be a "pirate" website to the inevitable collateral damage sustained by non-infringing sites. With the last of those, you can pretty much set your watch to the stories of innocent sites being caught up in this sort of censorship. Still, the breadth of this particular problem likely escapes many people.

To get a handle on the sort of scope we're talking about, we can take a look at Russia. In response to international accusations of the government being lax on matters of copyright infringement, Russia enacted legislation in 2013 that tasked ISPs and hosting providers with blocking pirate websites. It's been nearly half a decade, so let's check in and see what sort of impact that legislation has had.

More than four years on, Russia is still grappling with a huge piracy problem that refuses to go away. It has been blocking thousands of sites at a steady rate, including RuTracker, the country's largest torrent platform, but still the problem persists.

Now, a new report produced by Roskomsvoboda, the Center for the Protection of Digital Rights, and the Pirate Party of Russia, reveals a system that has not only failed to reach its stated aims but is also having a negative effect on the broader Internet.

According to that study, the numbers come out to roughly 4,000 sites blocked that are the actual sort of website the Russian government meant to target and 41,000 sites that are essentially purely collateral damage. The reason for this is that the nature of the legal proceedings in these sorts of cases is such that the actual site operators basically never show up in court. Instead, the ISPs and hosting providers do, and are then ordered to block these pirate sites by IP addresses, among other methods. These IP addresses can be shared, however, meaning that any third party sharing an IP address with the target of a block order from the courts are caught up and likewise censored.

Due to the legal requirement to block sites by both IP address and other means, third-party sites with shared IP addresses get caught up as collateral damage. The report states that more than 41,000 innocent sites have been blocked as the result of supposedly targeted court orders.

But with collateral damage mounting, the main issue as far as copyright holders are concerned is whether piracy is decreasing as a result. The report draws few conclusions on that front but notes that blocks are a blunt instrument. While they may succeed in stopping some people from accessing ‘pirate’ domains, the underlying infringement carries on regardless.

“Blocks create restrictions only for Internet users who are denied access to sites, but do not lead to the removal of illegal information or prevent intellectual property violations,” the researchers add.

So, the blunt instrument of censorship has been fairly bad at stopping copyright infringement, it's stated goal, but quite good at censoring innocent sites at a factor of ten to one compared with the actual targets of the censoring. That's the kind of failure that's so bad it's impressive. One would think the Russian government would be looking to overhaul the legislation and censorship program to start driving these numbers back into the realm of reason. But this is Russia we're talking about, so instead the country is ramping up its censorship efforts, with requirements for search results to omit "pirate" sites and by criminalizing VPNs.

It's enough that you start to wonder just how many websites the average Russian citizen will be able to access at all before long.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 1:48pm

    It's enough that you start to wonder just how many websites the average Russian citizen will be able to access at all before long.

    None that aren't approved by the government. Isn't that the point?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 7 Sep 2017 @ 1:49pm

    If hosting providers are showing up in court, why would they be blocking the allegedly infringing domains by IP? If that is the requirement, it seems almost purposely designed to break a lot more internet while not actually shutting down the servers, which the hosting provider can surely do. And given domains are not always exactly statically linked with an IP... this gives me a headache.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 7 Sep 2017 @ 1:53pm

    So basically, they used the equivalent of a nuke to eliminate a small insurgent team?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 1:56pm

    According to the minds of the copyright holders it is far better to kill all 11 people in a room (10 innocent people and 1 murderer) to take down the one who is guilty of actual murder that is in the room to ensure that they take down the one that is the murderer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 7 Sep 2017 @ 2:44pm

      Re:

      Ah, yes. Harry Filth. That was a great skit.

      Chief: You killed a dozen innocent people besides the perp!

      Harry: I'd kill a HUNDRED people to get punks like that!

      Chief: Well, I guess you know best, Harry. I'll leave it up to you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 8 Sep 2017 @ 9:47am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah but it makes you wonder -- can Russian police claim a shooting of a perp was justified because they killed fewer than 12 innocent bystanders in addition to the actual target?

        Going by these Russian judges, you have to wonder.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 1:59pm

    Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

    Tried looking for a serial number just today but apparently every torrent site is now behind Cloudflare that forces a captcha when from TOR address and/or then requires javascript and/or cookies -- all of which IDENTIFY users. Perhaps you pirates haven't noticed since it's been put in place gradually, don't use TOR, and don't know enough to use Noscript, besides think you're getting away the thefts, but even torrent sites are now part of the total surveillance system.

    I didn't get anywhere near seeing a serial #. You millions of pirates have caused "collateral damage" that hampered my curiosity, so congrats.

    ---
    BTW: Russia still has TENS OF MILLIONS of sites, don't worry about these few.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 2:18pm

      Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

      And just what sort of serial number would that have been, and why were you hiding behind TOR? If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 2:24pm

      Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

      I'm struggling to make sense of what you were trying to do and what your point is.

      What kind of serial number are you trying to find that requires you to use a torrent site and that just searching for is such a huge privacy issue that you need to be absolutely anonymous by using TOR?

      Forgive me if I am ignorant but don't people usually have a serial number in hand before searching for something? I've never heard of someone trying to find a serial number they don't already have or know, unless they are looking for a list of serial numbers for collecting/archiving purposes. Like if you wanted a specific collector item from a range of batches and wanted to know which serial numbers to look for.

      Also, better grammar needed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 2:31pm

        Re: Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

        Also, the fact that a lot of sites are now behind Cloudflare and require verification isn't the fault of pirates. That's just good business practice.

        If you want your site to stay up and online and not be taken down by DDOS attacks or other malicious actors (these are not pirates btw) then putting your site behind a service like Cloudflare and requiring human verification is basically a necessity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 3:12pm

      Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

      Someone not famous once said "all TOR users are by default, pirates."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 3:36pm

        Re: Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

        Having once worked on a very popular DNS platform that offered free services in addition to paid services I'm all too familiar with dealing with abuse. A huge percentage of that abuse resulted in pointers to piracy sites and, without fail, the users abusing the platform used TOR. The solution was quite simple (there is a DNS graylist for TOR nodes) and eliminated effectively all of the abuse.

        I don't know how much TOR traffic would not be categorized as illegal if it were in the open but my money is on "less than 5%". At some point a tool used almost exclusively for illegal behavior must surely start locking down usage or risk being declared illegal itself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 7 Sep 2017 @ 3:24pm

      Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

      We aren't worried about the few potentially infringing sites, we are worried about the collateral damage which, no, "pirates" did not cause. And thanks so much for assuming everyone here is part of some infringement navy. That's the only possible reason anyone would care, right? Good job, that kind of thinking. It has always helped human society so very much.

      But hey, enjoy all the network love you receive for using TOR or NoScript and whatnot. It's totally because pirates. Oh, and terrorists, i'm sure. Who doesn't want to track clicks (or humans) and target advertising or propaganda to pirates and terrorists?

      Yep. We're all too stoopid to use NoScript and other tools too. While we are thefting from the mouths of starving artists.

      Good luck with future serial number torrents, though. And watch out if you have data caps.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 6:53pm

      Re: Meanwhile, efforts in the West are increasing difficulty.

      out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2017 @ 5:41pm

    In my experience as a highway patrolman, 95% of the people I've arrested had cars. I don't know how much car traffic would not be categorized as illegal if it were in the open. But I expect you to make social policy based on my opinion.

    At some point, a road used almost exclusively for illegal behavior must surely start locking down usage or risk being declared illegal itself.

    And don't even get me started on hands--do you know how many convicts used their hands in the course of that felony? I don't either, of course, but there have to be more hands-on felons than Tor-users. And I don't know, but surely it's past time to start amputating limbs at birth, for the good of society.

    OK, seriously, I understand how personal experiences create bigotry. I personally assume that nobody but a psychotic child abuser would be caught dead teaching PE or coaching in schools or universities. Intellectually, I can conceive of the possibility that my experience might not be universal, but I cannot conceive of a universe in which it's not. The best I can do is avoid ranting about PE teachers on other people's forums.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 1:04am

    Google pays this site by the article, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 5:56am

      Re:

      No they pay by the number of idiots who think they are being clever by insinuating that Google must pay people for any positive press. They get paid double if said comment happens in an article that has fuck all to do with Google. I hear business is very, very good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 8 Sep 2017 @ 1:18am

    Lay the blame where it belongs

    The blame doesn't rest with the government, the courts, or the rights holders, the problem lays with the hosts themselves and their lax attitudes towards piracy and other illegal uses of the web.

    By the numbers in the story, nearly 10% of the sites hosted were marked for blocking. That doesn't mean that a few small sites were hiding on the host, but that one in ten of them was illegal, and obvious enough to make it to the block list.

    The host could (and should) do more to protect it's other clients by not hosting the stuff and removing it as quickly as the become aware of it. If they are a true "no content removed, no client refused" host then they should make that clear to all of their clients, so their potential clients know the risk.

    You have to think that some of the 41,000 would have been somewhere else avoiding problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 8 Sep 2017 @ 2:04am

      Yes, let's

      "It's not my fault my shotgun took out ten other people in addition to the one I was aiming at, it's their fault for standing too close!"

      I'd like to say I was surprised that you're apparently defending a program where the hit/miss ratio is ten to one in favor of the misses, but I'd be lying.

      If you want to argue that the hosts shouldn't share IP addresses between sites such that the collateral damage would be less that's one thing, but as it is that's not the case, such that the 'targeted' court orders will result in innocent sites being dragged in through no fault of their own because the law is applying a sledgehammer rather than a surgical knife.

      The host could (and should) do more to protect it's other clients by not hosting the stuff and removing it as quickly as the become aware of it.

      Not their job to play proactive copyright cop, and it's when they are notified that a site needs to be blocked is when the other sites get taken down as well, so your 'suggestion' wouldn't help.

      You have to think that some of the 41,000 would have been somewhere else avoiding problems.

      Yes, if only they'd have known ahead of time that a court order dealing with someone else's site would result in their's being blocked as well. I mean really, that should have been obvious from the get-go, so they have only themselves to blame.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Groaker (profile), 8 Sep 2017 @ 4:28am

        Re: Yes, let's

        The host is a common carrier, no more responsible for what it transmits than UPS, FEDEX or the USPS. Anything else in the way of speech, would be prior restraint.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 6:36pm

        Re: Yes, let's

        You'll notice that MyNameHere/Whatever/horse with no name has a similarly cavalier attitude when it comes to actual cops, not just copyright cops.

        Exercise caution in case there's a baby? No, no, that might encourage criminals to abduct babies, better throw in that flashbang. Look before you shoot? No, no, that naked person running away might be concealing a weapon surgically grafted into his vertebrae, better gun down the fucker.

        MyNameHere isn't interested in accuracy or collateral damage. He wants everyone to be fucked over. He believes he won't be affected because he's such a model citizen, like those who support Prenda Law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          MyNameHere (profile), 9 Sep 2017 @ 4:15am

          Re: Re: Yes, let's

          Obvious troll is obvious.

          "Exercise caution in case there's a baby?"

          Police should always exercise caution. You should be way more upset about criminals who deal drugs, consume drugs, and leave loaded weapons around children.

          "that naked person running away might be concealing a weapon surgically grafted into his vertebrae, better gun down the fucker."

          Obvious troll is even more obvious.

          "MyNameHere isn't interested in accuracy or collateral damage."

          I am very interested in accuracy. I am also very interested in responsibility. If you read the story on Torrent Freak, you will see the line "The main reason behind this situation is that ‘pirate’ site operators rarely (if ever) turn up to defend themselves.". So let's assign the blame where it belongs, with those who abuse the system and those who allow them to do it.

          Perhaps if they were a little more worried about the collateral damage they will cause, there wouldn't be such an issue.

          "he's such a model citizen"

          I am in no way a model citizen. I am an adult that understands that my actions are my own, but they can affect, hurt, or benefit others. I am responsible for them. Are you, troll?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2017 @ 6:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Yes, let's

            The funny thing is, people can read your post history. Every time a lack of police restraint is pointed out your immediate response is to suggest that it's too hard. In fact, the only time you claim to be interested in accuracy and responsibility is when you get called out for not having it.

            For someone who claims to not want to deal with trolls you do seem to do it anyway. That's fascinatingly peculiar.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 2:22am

      Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

      >the problem lays with the hosts themselves and their lax attitudes towards piracy and other illegal uses of the web.

      The hosts provide real and/or virtual servers for their customers to use, they do not have the staff to monitor all files placed on all servers. Also, the only person or organization that can recognize infringing copies of a work is the copyright holder, because nobody else has knowledge to recognize works, and associate them with the owner, and also know what license have been granted. So short of a working crystal ball, recognizing infringement nowhere as easy as you claim it is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 5:58am

      Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

      Collateral damage is fine unless it happens to be your comment in the spam filter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 11:15am

      Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

      Section 230 numbnuts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 5:29pm

        Re: Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

        In russia, nimrod?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2017 @ 4:38am

          Re: Re: Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

          Sure, why not. If the DMCA applies...

          Section 230 is worth mentioning, though, because MyNameHere can't stand the fact that it exists either. Just like fair use.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            MyNameHere (profile), 10 Sep 2017 @ 5:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

            So what you are saying is that US law should apply in Russia?

            Nice! Now the US can just legislate Putin out of existence.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2017 @ 6:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lay the blame where it belongs

              You and your buddies have been arguing that the DMCA applies everywhere for years. It's not a huge logical leap to make.

              The US has been treating itself like World Police for so long, it's an open secret by now.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 5:30am

    So.... then... we shouldn't punish 20 million law-abiding gun owners and get rid of guns so that we MIGHT stop 10 thousand violent people?

    Do we continue to label Law Enforcement as being bad as a whole due to the miniscule number of bad cops?

    I'm confused... do I punish the whole for the transgressions of the few or not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      First stay on topic. Second stop making idiotic arguments for your pet causes. That should help with your confusion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 9:45am

        Re: Re:

        I'll give you the first point.

        But the second is kinda funny and not very honest, considering this entire site is dedicated to pet causes.

        Are you suggesting that logic should only be used if it benefits your view? That somehow showing the hypocrisy and flawed thinking, using the same logic presented here, by pointing out the problems with a particular stance should only be applied to YOUR pet causes?

        Interesting...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 8 Sep 2017 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      Your argument is stupid, and so are you. The analogy isn't "this law was supposed to take down illegal guns, but accidentally took down legal gun owners," it's "this law was supposed to take down illegal guns, but accidentally took down McDonalds, Saxe 5th Ave, and the local laundromat." The collateral damage was widespread and covered ANYTHING, not just related things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 9:56am

        Re: Re:

        I would argue that removing guns, or piracy, to attempt to prevent a heinous act very definitely affect unrelated things. How is my owning a gun tied to some idiot in Podunk, USA who decides to kill his mother? I would call the 2 completely unrelated.

        Knee-jerk, emotional responses to an almost non-existent threat with proven ineffectual methods solves nothing. It also leads to more harm than good. These are TD's very arguments for the article above.

        It seems that TD chooses to argue in favor of logic when defending it's stances, yet throwing the same logic out the window when arguing against a similar situation, be it Piracy, Law Enforcement, or tic tack toe.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 11:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The adults are talking about Russian website blocking not whatever you're blathering in about. Do try to keep up. If you don't like it start your own blog. Call it, This is my dick, this is my gun. Or I am a dick with a gun, whatever.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 11:44am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I thought the point of the article was about trying to correct an issue using draconic measures... and illustrating the point with the collateral damage caused.

            Sorry, my 4th grade education isn't worth what it used to be.

            You adults can continue your virtue signaling and denigration now, if you like.

            Gosh your so smart!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2017 @ 8:11am

    Russia and China learned fast with the West on how to censor information using copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2017 @ 7:25am

    Ah yes, RuTracker... for all your abandoned software needs.
    But seriously you can find some pretty rare, out-of-print software in there.
    I wouldn't recommend running any of it outside a VM (most won't work past Win XP anyway) but it did save my ass a couple of times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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