Researchers find blocking Internet pirating sites is not effective

January 10, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: Tobias Lauinger et al.

(—Researchers at Boston's Northeastern University have conducted a study on the effectiveness of anti-piracy measures taken by content providers to deter the illegal sharing of files on the Internet. Their research shows that tactics such as blocking sites by seizing domains names does little to curb the sharing of protected files. They suggest that providers instead focus on blocking the income stream such sites generate.

There has been a lot of press coverage of pirating on the Internet and corporate efforts to stop it, yet to date, the researchers note, very little if any research has been conducted to determine if the methods used are effective. To find out for themselves, the team began monitoring the availably of thousands of spread across the Internet via popular file-hosting sites. They noted that as sites were blocked, availability of certain files dropped, but only for a short time – soon other sites picked up the slack and the files formerly found on the blocked soon became available on other hosting sites, making the blocking action moot.

As part of their research, the team also noted that the shutdown of the wildly popular site did little to curb the spread of content that users had previously found there. They suggest that if anything, shutting down arguably the most popular file sharing site on the Internet led to a more fractured landscape, with many more small sites sharing files, making stopping piracy even more difficult. The researchers also counted the number of file-sharing sites that are believed to currently host pirated content and found over 10,000 covering more than 5,000 IP addresses.

After analyzing their data, the research team concluded that blocking file-hosting sites is ineffective and the practice has done little to lessen the number of illegally shared files available for download from such sites. They suggest that taking away the ability to process payments from such services would likely be much more effective, though they also note the difficulty might find in separating legitimate file-hosting sites from those that share pirated material. Another approach they suggest is that a more reasonable alternative be created that reduces demand, similar to the model that has been created for downloadable music.

Explore further: Researchers find most BitTorrent users being monitored

More information: Clickonomics: Determining the Effect of Anti-Piracy Measures for One-Click Hosting (paper PDF)

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2.4 / 5 (7) Jan 10, 2013
*sigh* I hate bittorrent, it took all the fun out of piracy. Now it's just too easy. Bittorrent is at it's core, an algorithm, it's math, it's an idea. We all know how easy it is to get rid of those, right? I can and will always be able to get pretty much anything I want and yet they still make movies and the corpses of bad pop-stars are not littering the streets (more's the pity).

I know that a vast amount of piracy is done by people who can't afford what they're downloading, living on a fixed income or disabled shut-ins who can't get to the theater. I see no harm in downloading a movie that I didn't have the ability to pay for or go to see. That's money they wouldn't have seen anyways.
1.4 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2013
What is "availably"?
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2013
Recall the extreme lengths to which content providers have gone to imbue copy prevention technology into their products? And the harsh laws and well publicized prosecution? For how many years (decades)? And how effective it has been?

Technology has changed things (and will continue to change things even more), and content providers desperately want their old models to continue to work. I can't imagine what would help them in this effort, but preventing copying is a lost battle.

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