Wednesday, 11 May 2016 03:45

Blocking piracy websites has proven effective, Screen Association research shows


Website blocking has reduced online movie piracy and is playing a role increasing take-up of legitimate sources of content in the UK, according to new research unveiled in Sydney on Tuesday night.

The new research revealed that court orders requiring the UK's largest ISPs to block 53 piracy sites, which have been in place since November 2014, have reduced internet traffic to the sites by 16 per cent.
It also uncovered a causal link between the blocking order and a 10 per cent increase in visits to legal ad-supported sites and a six per cent increase in visits to other legal subscription-based services.

The research was conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University's Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics (IDEA) – which contained a disclosure that the initiative receives "unrestricted (gift) funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)".
Economist Dr Brett Danaher, a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of the research, presented its findings on behalf of the Australian Screen Association (ASA).

Dr Danaher and his co-authors are among a small number of economists that have attempted to use scientific methods to demonstrate direct causal links between anti-piracy measures and decreases in illegal downloading activity.
The researchers studied the behaviour patterns of around 60,000 UK internet users before and after the placement of the site blocks based on data provided by an anonymous internet tracking firm.

Their research was a continuation of a previous study comparing the impact of the first site blocking order against Pirate Bay in the UK in April 2012 and orders blocking a further 19 sites in November 2013.
That study found that while blocking Pirate Bay had a negligible impact on piracy rates or take-up of legitimate content in the UK, the 2013 blocking orders substantially improved the odds for media owners by decreasing overall visits to pirate sites by 30 per cent.
Danaher explained that in the case of the 2012 Pirate Bay block, for every 12 blocked visits to the site after the court handed down its orders total visits to pirate sites reduced by only one. After the courts banned access to a further 19 sites the ratio shifted – for every three blocked visits to a banned site there were only 2.5 successful visits to a pirate site.
When that was compared to data on visits to legitimate content sites over the same period, Danaher said that there was a clear link.
"There's a very strong negative correlation here. That means the more that you decreased your piracy after the site blocks the more that you increased your visits to legal sites.

"That's really the story behind the whole paper and all of the math and all of the robustness and falsification tests. This is the story about the November (2013) blocks and it's the story that shows a causal inference that the block actually caused an increase in visits to legal sites," Danaher said.
The study also revealed that broadening litigation hasn't led to a proportionate return for content owners. While the November 2013 orders to block 19 sites in the UK found a sweet spot in thwarting privacy, the returns diminished when extended to 53 sites.
Nevertheless, Danaher warned that continuous blocking might be necessary to avoid "a reversion to the status quo".
When questioned Danaher was less emphatic about the applicability of IDEA's research in Australia.

"One thing question you would ask is are pirates here similar to pirates in the UK and I've never seen any data or information telling me that they'd be different. At the end of the day people want content and I don't think that there'd be any stronger resistance to legal channels.
"But the question to be asked is what's the degree of timeliness and convenience of legal channels versus the UK. If it's similar or it's more convenient then I think this will generalise to a country like Australia. If that's not the case then you might have to model that in to determine what the impact might be here," Danaher said.

The ASA-promoted briefing coincides with Foxtel and Village Roadshow's troika of independent federal court legal bids to block The Pirate Bay, Torrenthound SolarMovie, Torrentz, and IsoHunt websites.
Record companies are pursing a fourth legal action against music sharing website Kickass Torrents.
Those bids were made possible by legislation passed in June 2015 allowing content owners to apply for federal court orders against ISPs to block overseas websites or "online locations" that have the "primary purpose" of facilitating copyright infringement.





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