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Website Domain Company Forced to Remove Popular Streaming Sites

Njalla, a privacy-focused domain registration service, has recently been compelled to take down several domains associated with major streaming sites due to legal pressures. This development highlights the ongoing battle between copyright holders and piracy-linked operators as each side tries to gain the upper hand.

Njalla‘s Stance on Privacy

Njalla was founded in 2017 by Peter Sunde, co-founder of the infamous torrent site The Pirate Bay. Frustrated by the clampdown on piracy services, Sunde established Njalla as a "privacy-aware" domain registrar that would shield site owners from surveillance and takedown demands.

As Sunde declared in Njalla‘s mission statement: "Why should every person that wants to protect their data have to be a technologist? Privacy should be a right."

Njalla enabled users to register domain names with no association to their real identities. This appealed to many file-sharing and streaming platforms seeking to operate outside the reach of copyright enforcers and government monitoring.

Since its inception, Njalla has provided domain services to thousands of sites. But as recent actions have shown, Njalla‘s commitment to privacy has limits when legal pressures are leveraged against them.

Njalla‘s Growth Over the Years

Njalla has seen steady growth since its launch in 2017. By mid-2018, Njalla already had over 5,000 active domain registrations under management.

The company‘s catalog has expanded to include dozens of domain extensions like .com, .net, .org as well as country-code TLDs such as .io and .to. This provides site owners flexibility in choosing domain suffixes less prone to seizure.

By 2020, Njalla had nearly 20,000 domains relying on its privacy-focused registration services. However, major registrars like GoDaddy and Namecheap register domains in the millions – so Njalla controls a tiny sliver of the market.

Previous Controversies

Njalla‘s stance on anonymity has led to clashes with authorities in the past. In 2018, the Motion Picture Association of America called out Njalla for facilitating piracy and failing to suspend infringing domain names.

Sunde countered that Njalla cannot arbitrarily censor domains, stating: "We register domains to organizations that pedophiles probably also shop for food at."

However, beneath this rhetoric, Njalla‘s policies do describe a responsibility to disable domains if ordered by a court or other authority. The recent streaming site takedowns reflect Njalla‘s begrudging compliance with demands despite its privacy principles.

Streaming Sites Targeted

Over the past several weeks, Njalla has been forced to disable service for a number of major streaming domains following demands from copyright holders. Affected sites include:

  • flixtor.is
  • stream2watch.is
  • 1337x.is
  • getpopcorntime.is

These sites offered access to pirated movies, TV shows, live sports, and other copyrighted content. Their demise represents a hit to the streaming piracy ecosystem.

The Takedown Demands

The demands to suspend these piracy-linked domains came from copyright holders and authorities based in Iceland. Responsibility for the .is top level domain falls to ISNIC, the country‘s domain registry.

Iceland has been more proactive than other countries in pressuring local domain registrars to disable access to torrent and streaming platforms. Failing to comply can result in suspension of a registrar‘s access to register any .is websites – a deathblow to companies like Njalla.

Faced with this threat, Njalla explained: "The company‘s hand was forced, and it saw no other option than to take the domains offline."

Losing .is registration abilities would undermine Njalla‘s business model and cut off thousands of other website owners unrelated to piracy issues.

A Familiar Cat and Mouse Game

This back-and-forth between a privacy service like Njalla and copyright enforcers is nothing new. Identical scenes have played out with other domain firms and registries around the world.

In 2021, registrar Namecheap took down domains associated with major torrent sites YTS and YIFY to avoid jeopardizing their access to .com and other vital extensions.

Some domain registries like .nz (New Zealand) have implemented strict anti-piracy policies and suspended registrars failing to terminate infringing site domains. There are parallels to the pressure now facing Njalla and .is.

But like a game of whack-a-mole, piracy sites pop back up with new domain names or less restrictive TLDs like .to and .io. The quest to play jurisdictional shell games continues.

Impact on Icelandic Internet Users

For residents of Iceland, the loss of these Njalla-registered streaming domains poses obstacles to accessing content through unofficial means.

With .is domains now more tightly regulated, sites relying on this namespace for their piracy links will dwindle. Icelanders seeking movies, shows, sports, and music outside legal channels will be forced to use alternative domains and masking methods to maintain their activities.

Whether this significantly deters copyright infringement among the country‘s small population remains to be seen. But it does represent a tightening of controls on Icelandic internet freedoms.

What‘s Next for Affected Sites?

The streaming platforms stripped of their .is domains by Njalla are unlikely to disappear entirely. Operators of these sites may try to register new domains under permissive TLDs like .to and .bz which allow greater anonymity.

Of course, this depends on finding domain registrars willing to associate themselves with illegitimate streaming. And copyright holders can persist in pressuring registries and companies enabling these rebranded domains.

If the affected sites can‘t re-establish themselves quickly under different domains,visitor traffic and ad revenue crucial to their survival will rapidly evaporate.

User Data Potentially at Risk

A concern is what becomes of the user data associated with these defunct streaming platforms. Site operators may attempt to monetize databases of IP addresses, viewing logs and personal information by selling them off.

In the past, torrent and streaming platforms like YTS and uTorrent have sold their user data trove to third parties. There are suspicions Popcorn Time may have done the same before folding in 2018.

Njalla claims they maintain no user data, only domain registration information used for managing DNS records and domains. But if the actual site operators retain databases of users, they now have incentive to profit off this information.

Protect Your Privacy with a VPN

In light of these risks, using a reputable VPN service is essential when accessing "gray area" streaming content via sites of unclear repute.

A VPN allows you to browse and stream anonymously by encrypting your connection and hiding your IP address. This prevents snooping by sites themselves as well as your ISP or any other party. NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and other leading providers offer robust privacy protections.

Don‘t assume streaming platforms, even those boasting about privacy, have your best interests in mind. Take steps to anonymize your access.

Embrace the Future With Legal Streaming

While copyright crusades try to stamp out piracy playgrounds, legal streaming options continue maturing into an ever-more robust alternative.

Mainstream services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max and discovery+ offer vast content catalogs in cooperation with rights holders. Live TV replacement services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and DirecTV Stream grant access to sports, news, and other programming without cable.

The demise of sketchy streaming sites represents losses for pirates but gains for legitimate services. As studios and platforms align to make legal streaming both pervasive and affordable, fewer people see the need to take risks accessing dubious pirate sources.

Evolving the Cat and Mouse Game

For as long as copyright laws and content licensing restrict the free flow of media on the internet, this game of whack-a-mole between enforcers and evasive platforms will continue. Each domain shutdown or site blocking simply spawns new iterations in a perpetual cycle.

But with growing adoption of legal alternatives, over time public tolerance for piracy‘s headaches and risks declines. As media access improves, the shady stream dries up.

Njalla‘s compelled removal of major streaming domains shows the pendulum swinging towards law enforcement goals. However, the wider war still rages on with ever-evolving technology and tactics on both sides. Absolute victory remains elusive.

The individual internet user‘s best move is to embrace emerging legal options and protect one‘s privacy. With vigilance and patience, the need for piracy‘s dark alleys fades altogether.

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