ESA Reports Game Piracy, File Hosting and Cheating Sites to US Government * TorrentFreak

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In response to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) submitted a list of so-called “Notorious Markets” to the US government.

Representing some of the biggest names in gaming, from Activision, EA, Nintendo and Ubisoft, to Capcom, Microsoft, Konami and Square Enix, ESA acts as a voice for companies producing billions of dollars in content. According to the trade group, all of them are threatened by a wide array of platforms that focus on hacking or facilitating hacking.

“As the American association that represents companies that publish interactive games for video game consoles, portable devices, personal computers and the Internet, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) sees the review of well-known markets as an important opportunity for shed light on the markets which facilitate counterfeiting or mass counterfeiting of industry products and services and which remain either sheltered or impervious to the deterrent effects of enforcement measures “, begins the submission of the ESA.

Hypertext links to websites

In line with previous submissions to USTR, ESA first highlights the threat posed by sites that do not themselves host counterfeit content but link to third-party storage sites (file hosting / cyberlockers).

These linking sites typically generate income through user donations, advertising, or both, and ESA selects a number because of their high traffic levels and the volume of counterfeit links on offer. A key factor for the inclusion of a platform is the claim that it also does not respond to notifications sent by rights holders to have counterfeit links removed.

Topping the list is OceanofGames.com, which was found to have links to 5,100 pirated titles owned by ESA members following an analysis in August 2021.

According to the professional group, the site is now hosted in Ukraine after leaving France last year, which may be why the site only removed 1% of the content listed in notices of violation of the right to author of ESA members. OceanofGames is presented in a post blog format and can deliver large games with one click, providing ease of use for visitors but irritation for ESA members.

Nsw2u.xyz (formerly Switch-xci) offers links to pirated games for most platforms, including PC. However, ESA stresses the site’s importance to the Nintendo Switch hacking market. As of September 2021, the site contained 5,500 posts containing links to game downloads for the popular console, which include its most recently released titles.

ESA complains that the site uses various techniques to thwart anti-piracy enforcement, including using alternative .com and .org domains. The website would ignore all ESA takedown notices and use an unnamed “US-based content delivery network” to conceal the identity of its operators. A quick search reveals that the CDN provider is Cloudflare.

Finally, ESA calls on Darkw.pl to have indexed more than 65,000 links to the titles of its members in order to serve more than 187,000 registered users. This site also uses Cloudflare and, according to the ESA, blocks US IP addresses “for the purpose of appearing offline.” At the time of writing, the site returns a 404 message when accessed from IP addresses inside or outside the United States.

Hosting sites / Cyberlockers

Like many anti-piracy groups, ESA uses the derogatory term “cyberlockers” to describe file hosting platforms that carry large amounts of illegal content. These cyberlockers usually do not have a search function themselves, so they work in tandem with the types of linking sites listed above in order to deliver content to users.

After making an appearance in previous reports, ESA’s main thorn in the side remains 1fichier.com. At the time of writing, this massive platform enjoys around 35 million hits per month and, as of August, reportedly hosted at least 1,156 copies of video game titles from ESA members. Withdrawal notices are sent to the platform, but they are massively ignored, with only 0.71% of notices being answered.

“1file’s extremely low compliance rate for removing counterfeit content attracts more unauthorized downloaders to the platform due to the content remaining active on the platform for longer periods of time,” the submission states. from ESA.

“Links to websites that index and manage links to content hosted on 1file also benefit from the platform’s low compliance rate, as these websites derive more ad revenue from users clicking on links to hosted pirate content. on 1 file. “

ESA is clearly frustrated by the lack of cooperation and stresses that despite the loss of criminal and civil cases in 2021, the French company behind 1fichier has not changed its mode of operation.

In a decision rendered in April by the Criminal Court of Nancy, the company was condemned for not having removed pirated content from its servers and ordered to pay a fine of 1.3 million euros (1.5 million euros). dollars). Its president was also given a one-year suspended prison sentence. In May, a Paris court convicted 1file in a civil case involving Nintendo, which also resulted in a $ 1 million fine.

“Although the court ordered the provisional execution of its decision, which should have resulted in immediate compliance by the company, the company operating the 1fichier platform did not do so,” notes the ESA.

Finally, the Rapidu.net file hosting platform is also called upon to host 10,600 ESA member games, while also using Cloudflare services.

Torrent sites

Only two torrent sites are listed in ESA’s submission – TorrentFunk.com and TorrentDownloads.pro. They are accused of hosting .torrent files (3,300 and 3,200 respectively) that link to game titles of ESA members, according to an August analysis. The sites would not be sensitive to takedown notices and, like the other platforms on the list, both use Cloudflare’s services.

Cheating platforms and digital goods

Finally, ESA highlights the problems it faces with the unauthorized sale of in-game digital items on third-party platforms and the nuisance of services designed to help users cheat in multiplayer games.

On the cheating front, ESA is calling unknowncheats.me to offer tips and tutorials for over 100 games, and se7ensins.com to provide access to mods, boost services, and support rescinding bans. pronounced by game publishers. Other sites include mpgh.net, iwantcheats.net, and engineowning.com, all of which are reported for similar behavior.

When it comes to unauthorized marketplaces that allow users to list and sell digital items such as currency and in-game items, game accounts and unlicensed game keys, ESA reports threats from g2a .com, playerauctions.com and g2g.com.

ESA hopes USTR will designate all of the above as “notorious markets” in its final report so that they can be held accountable overseas.

“The resulting list of high profile markets provides important information that enables national and local policymakers, as well as law enforcement officials, in other countries to fairly assess and demand accountability. these markets and the services that support them, including through appropriate enforcement measures “, concludes the ESA.

ESA’s submission to USTR is available here (pdf)


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