The US Trade Representative’s office said the two websites, a host of others and more than 20 shopping districts such as the Silk Market in Beijing and Pantip Plaza in Bangkok were “notorious” centres openly selling or enabling the sale of counterfeit or pirated goods, from software to industrial products to live sports television broadcasts.
While no action was threatened in the USTR’s first global “Review of Notorious Markets”, it said the offenders were targets for copyright enforcement efforts and could be singled out in individual country reports.
“The United States urges the responsible authorities to intensify efforts to combat piracy and counterfeiting in these and similar markets,” it said.
According to the trade representative, The Pirate Bay and other BitTorrent indexing sites “have become notorious hubs for infringing activities, even though such sites may also be used for lawful purposes”.
In addition to The Pirate Bay, a slew of other BitTorrent sites — which permit speedy downloads of large files like music, videos and books — were named, including IsoHunt of Canada, Russia-based Rutracker, Ukraine’s Demenoid, and Publicbt.
The Pirate Bay recently ranked among the top 100 websites in both global and US traffic, according to the report, which also pointed out that the site had been the subject of a “notable criminal prosecution” in Sweden.
In April 2009, a Stockholm court convicted the four men behind The Pirate Bay – Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundström and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg – of facilitating copyright violations.
Each man was sentenced to one year in prison. They were also ordered to pay a total of 30 million kronor ($4.7 million) in damages.
Following a ruling by an appeals court in November 2010, from which Svartholm Warg was absent due to illness, the three remaining men had their prison sentences reduced, although the fine the defendants are required to pay up was bumped up to 46 million kronor.
Also on the US Trade Representative list was Russia-based social networking site Vkontakte, which was cited for permitting users “to provide access to allegedly infringing materials.”
While the markets named spanned the globe — shopping districts in South America to Southeast Asia were included, as were websites in a number of countries — Chinese offenders were the most numerous on the list.
It said that Baidu — number six on a worldwide list of top websites compiled by web surveyor Alexa Internet — was enabling piracy with “deep linking” searches.
Such searches could take a user directly to a page for a pirated download rather than to the website’s home page.
Kaiser Kuo, spokesman for Baidu, which has seen its market share increase steadily since Google effectively shut down its Chinese search engine in March last year, declined comment on the report when contacted by AFP.
Also named were China’s largest retail website Taobao, sports telecast rebroadcaster TV Ants, smartphone applications host 91.com; markets in Yiwu, Shenzhen and Beijing; and popular computer shopping areas like Hailong PC Mall in Beijing and Shanghai’s Yangpu Yigao Digital Square.
The USTR said that Taobao had moved to curb pirated and copyright-infringing goods on its site, but “still has a long way to go in order to resolve those problems.”
A spokesman for Alibaba Group, which owns Taobao, said the company would “continue to work closely with brand owners and others to further enhance the level of trust and integrity in our online marketplaces”.
“We appreciate the USTR’s acknowledgment of our ongoing efforts to work with brand owners in protecting their intellectual property rights,” the spokesman, John Spelich, told AFP.
The list of markets included sites in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Kiev, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Manila.
It said the entire economy of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay “is based in part on the trafficking of counterfeit and infringed goods, with a particular emphasis on electronic goods.
“This activity spills over into the entire Tri-Border Region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, creating a hotbed of piracy and counterfeiting.”