In a high profile crackdown, federal authorities seized the domain names of nine websites accused of illegally distributing first run movies such as Toy Story 3 and The A-Team. All nine sites had domain names that were registered via U.S. registration services according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Some computers used to run the sites were located in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, however others were stored in Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the Czech Republic.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced it had seized assets, funds and equipment in what it termed an ongoing investigation. ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton admitted that the foreign based websites might reappear at different addresses. Sites included in the shut down were TVShack.net, Movies-Links.tv, Filespump.com, ZML.com, Now-Movies.com, ThePirateCity.org, PlanetMoviez.com, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net.
Business models for the non-licensed sites were not all download based. Some of them featured streaming and sold advertising. Morton told the WSJ that distribution technologies like BitTorrent that do not not store copies in a central location are much more difficult to control. “It’s a challenge,” Morton said. “There’s a level of sophistication government can’t always match. I don’t think we’ve stopped Internet piracy in a day, but this is going to be a sustained effort.”
According to TorrentFreak.com, a blog “dedicated to bringing the latest news about BitTorrent and everything that is closely related to this popular filesharing protocol,” movies-links.tv is already operational under the new domain name of watch-movies.tv.info and TVshack.net has now moved to TVshack.cc.
The piracy shutdown and reopening is reminiscent of the cat and mouse game which authorities have played with illegal music downloaders and copyright pirates which to date have failed to stem the growth of illegal downloads. According to the IFPI Digital Music Report 2010, illegal distribution of TV content is growing faster than music and movie piracy. Los Angeles manager Simon Renshaw is quoted in the study saying, “The music industry was hit first, but now with increased broadband you have a situation where all the creative industries are at a tipping point. You can see it in the collapsing DVD market; you can see what’s going on in TV, newspapers and magazines. And now we’re seeing the same thing in the book publishing business. You’re going to start seeing piracy of novels and reference books.”
The MPA, which represents movie studios, estimates that illegal streaming and film downloads—digital piracy— now accounts for 40 percent of of its piracy problem by volume and is growing.