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Trade office warns piracy can hurt health, safety

The flood of stolen movies, pirated software and other intellectual property is not only hurting major companies but can also pose “significant risks” to health and safety, the U.S. trade office is warning.

In a new report about thriving piracy markets, the U.S. Trade Representative warned that the black market sites “may lack safeguards for consumer privacy, security and safety, and some reportedly actively and surreptitiously install malware on users’ computers.”

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Sales of suspected counterfeit drugs, for instance, pose a problem to public health officials trying to keep people well.   

The warnings were contained in a new U.S. Trade Representative report about online and physical places where pirated goods run rampant. 

“The theft we're shining a light on today is detrimental not only to creators and inventors, but also to consumers, who may be deceived and even endangered” by the pirated goods, Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE said in a statement.

The analysis covers relatively well-traveled websites such as Russian social network vK.com, BitTorrent site KickassTorrents and 4shared.com, which is visited by millions of people each day. It also looked at physical markets from China to Argentina that offer black market counterfeit goods.

The trade office singled out domain name registrars — companies such as GoDaddy that handle the registration of Web domains — which it says can do more to make sure their websites aren’t used as pirate havens.

Measures to protect intellectual property “can break down when the tools available to rights holders become ineffective, due to, among other things, the failure of domain name registrars or other similarly situated entities to follow rules intended to help combat illicit activity,” the trade office said.