The US government agency, the USTR (The U.S. Trade Representative) has come under fire for listing websites that critics say should not be on the list.
The USTR maintains what the agency calls a "Notorious Market List", which aims to highlight the most notorious countries, regions and websites that deal with pirated and counterfeit goods.
In its latest report, the USTR listed the usual suspects, including The Pirate Bay and ExtraTorrent, but has also expanded the list to include MP3 ripping site Youtube-MP3.org and cyberlocker site 4shared.
It's these last two inclusions that have digital rights groups, such as the EFF, scratching their heads. A post on the EFF's official website explains in details why the group believes that, while both sites offer pirated content, they should still be excluded from the list.
Youtube-MP3.org allows users to rip the audio component of YouTube videos. This has allowed users to rip the audio from officially uploaded YouTube music videos, which is the main reason why the site has been added to the "Notorious Market" list. The EFF argues, however, that YouTube-MP3.org has many legitimate uses, such as users ripping their own uploaded videos in order to easily extract the audio (for example, to create a podcast version of a video upload). The EFF also argues that many YouTube videos are freely licensed, and that this and other fair use cases means the site cannot be casually regarded as a piracy site.
For 4shared and other cyberlocker sites, the EFF argues that these sites are no different to say YouTube, as the content on the site are user generated. This means these sites receive "safe harbor" protection from existing copyright laws, as long as they take steps to ensure rights-holders have an avenue to get unauthorised content removed. The EFF points out that 4shared not only provides rights holders tools to remove pirated content, the site goes "beyond the requirements of the law" in providing additional tools that help prevent pirated content from being uploaded.
And in what appears to be a clerical error, the "Notorious Markets" list also list the wrong domain name for cyberlocker site Putlocker, according to TorrentFreak.
Also listed are Russian social media site vKontakte and the Chinese version of eBay, Taobao. The former has been listed despite working with rights-holders over the past year to try and eradicate the piracy problems on the site.