A new study by NetNames commissioned by Comcast NBC Universal released this week
tries to get a handle on the global scope of online piracy. According to the study, some 432 million people engaged in copyright infringement during January of this year in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific alone.
Collectively, those people consumed some 9,567 petabytes per month in 2012, the majority of that traffic occurring via BitTorrent. Granted, you have to dig deep into the study before they tell you that 432 million people is a little less than 29% of all Internet users that month, or that the researchers considered a pirate to be anyone "who downloaded or viewed at least one piece of infringing content" (page 80
Both realizations dull the study's dramatic tone substantially.
Something else unlikely to be cherry picked by study funder NBC is the fact that the study repeatedly shows that improving access to "better authorized offerings" does appear to be the best medicine for piracy, as the snapshot to the left attests.
The report notes that cyberlocker use dropped 8% between November 2011 and January 2013 -- in large part due to the shutdown of MegaUpload. However, during that same period the number of pirates using BitTorrent and online video streaming platforms increased by 27% and 22%, respectively.
"This demonstrates clearly how quickly online piracy can react to system events such as site closures or seizures," notes NetNames. "User behaviour is modified, often in moments, shifting from locations or arenas impacted by events to others that offer a comparable spread of infringing content via a similar or different consumption model. The practise of piracy itself morphs to altered circumstances, with use of video streaming and bittorrent escalating as direct download cyberlockers fell away."
In other words, you're playing Whac-a-Mole by trying to focus on combating infringement, and the focus needs to remain on fighting piracy through better legitimate services.
It's also again worth noting the spike in BitTorrent piracy comes despite a growing number of "graduated response" programs here in the States and elsewhere intended to frighten or fine copyright offenders into compliance. A study out of Australia recently concluded
such programs are ineffective in stopping piracy, and the copyright alert system here in the States has had no notable impact on BitTorrent traffic