From Brett Danaher:
Arguments against piracy website blocking seem to mostly take one of two forms: there are arguments about it violating freedom speech or potentially “breaking the Internet” (to use a popular phrase), and there are arguments of the form “it won’t have any impact, you can still find ways to pirate any content you want, so why do it?” I’m not a legal scholar, so I don’t have any special expertise on freedom of speech. I’m also not an expert on the technical side of the Internet – although I do know that site blocking has been implemented in over 40 countries and in studying site blocking in several of those countries I’ve seen no evidence of a “broken Internet” or even a serious challenge to net neutrality. But I would leave the arguments about this to those whose expertise lies in the area of Internet policy regulation.
That said, I can offer my expertise on the argument that website blocking won’t have any impact because pirate content can always be found somewhere. I’ve been doing empirical research on this claim for the better part of a decade now; specifically, I’ve been looking at whether supply side antipiracy policies – enforcement actions that target piracy sites or protocols – can influence consumers to turn from illegal channels to legal ones. And I’ve been keeping an eye on the research of colleagues asking this same question. My findings are summarized in a peer-reviewed article published in Communications of the ACM.
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Basically, there is no evidence of a supply side antipiracy action that completely removes popular content from the Internet – you can always find it somewhere. And there is evidence that antipiracy actions that do not make piracy sufficiently difficult have no meaningful impact on legal sales or total piracy, because consumers can either find other sites from which to pirate the content or circumvent the enforcement actions.
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However, research also shows that taking actions against piracy sites can sometimes make piracy so inconvenient that a meaningful group of marginal consumers will turn their behavior from illegal sources to legal ones. For example, Mike Smith and I found that when Megaupload.com and Megavideo.com (the two largest piracy cyberlockers in the world) were both shutdown, many sites that linked to their content stopped working and many cyberlockers shifted their policies to be less tolerant toward copyright infringement. The result was a causal increase in revenues from digital movie sales and rentals of about 7.5%. Later, along with Rahul Telang, we found that even though the UK blocking the thepiratebay.org caused little decrease in total piracy and no increase in legal consumption, the UK blocking of 19 major video piracy sites in November 2013 caused a 12% increase in legal consumption and a large decrease in total piracy. Later, when 53 more piracy websites were blocked in November 2014, we found a similar effect.
The point is that supply side antipiracy actions fail when they only slightly raise the difficulty of pirating content, but seem to succeed in nudging consumption toward legal channels when they sufficiently raise the cost/inconvenience of pirating content.
Link to the rest at Brett Danaher