In response to yesterday’s post, a reader sent me a link to a BBC web post from November 2013 about a study of BitTorrent traffic in the United States and Europe. The results of the study were a surprise – at least to me. In a nutshell, BitTorrent traffic has continued to grow in Europe, while it has declined 20% in the United States.
The study cites many possible reasons for why BitTorrent traffic is declining in the United States; i.e., the 6 strikes policy now followed by many ISPs, URLs of torrent sites being blocked by court order, the use of dark nets, such as “Tor,” and the use of anonymous encrypted lockers to share content. All of this has some merit; however, I would expect the effects of all of these to be similar in the US and Europe with the exception of the US 6 strikes policy. I admit that my knowledge of European copyright measures is somewhat lacking, but the article mentions a harsher measure presently in effect in France and a similar measure in the UK. That gives us some reason to believe that European countries have been taking steps to rein in Internet Piracy as well.
One factor that the article does not mention that happens to be relatively unique to the United States is the deluge of torrent cases filed here in the US. Unlike Europe, a file sharer in the United States has a real chance of being sued and forced to pay thousands, or, in rare cases, tens of thousands of dollars. This study is real evidence that the copyright holders are winning – that the threat of lawsuit has actually changed consumer behavior with regards to file sharing in the United States. There is no doubt that other factors contributed to the 20% drop – some very tech savvy consumers have shifted from BitTorrent to encrypted file lockers, and a few more have shifted from BitTorrent to dark nets, such as Tor or RetroShare. But the reality is that BitTorrent is still the only file sharing service that is easy enough for almost anyone with a PC to use. No ifs, ands or buts about it – a drop of 20% in BitTorrent use is a big win for the content companies.
I’ll be the first to admit that this goes contrary to what I have said in the past – probably in this blog. Until seeing this, it was my opinion that these suits would have no effect at all Internet Piracy – the lure of “free stuff” is a strong one, and the remote possibility of getting sued for “thousands of dollars” seemed to ephemeral to me to make an impact. But it seems that after suing tens of thousands – or maybe even hundreds of thousands – of person in 2013, the content companies are making an impact. You can’t argue with results, and I do not dispute that. Methods on the other hand…we’ll save that for another post.