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Piracy Website Blocks by UK ISPs Trigger 20 Percent Fall in P2P Traffic

Monday, Mar 24th, 2014 (8:09 am) - Score 1,748

The annual Digital Music Report 2014 from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has claimed that the website blocking measures implemented by ISPs have become a “widely-accepted and effective way of curbing piracy online“, especially in Europe and the UK where BitTorrent (P2P) file sharing traffic is said to have fallen.

According to the IFPI’s report (download here), European countries where blocking orders are in place saw BitTorrent use decline by 11%, while European countries without such orders saw BitTorrent use increase by 15%. In particular Italy and the UK, where the “highest number of illegal services” are said to have been blocked, experienced a decline of 13% and 20% respectively. The IFPI now wants to see the measures expanded.


Digital Music Report 2014 (Extract)

The industry believes that website blocking is an effective tool to help tackle digital piracy and should be available in more countries worldwide. It also needs to be extended to cover mobile networks.”

As usual there are a few caveats to this. Firstly, the figures are based on information collected between January 2012 – July 2013 by comScore/Nielsen and at that time The Pirate Bay (TPB) and Newzbin were two of the only websites to be the subject of a court ordered block via the largest broadband ISPs (note: Newzbin was a Usenet Index and not BitTorrent based).

The report also fails to clarify exactly how the figures were arrived at or what was actually being measured (views or traffic etc.) and appears to conflict with some other feedback during this same period. For example, one big UK ISP noted how data volumes had dipped 11% immediately after the TPB ban before returning “pretty much back to where they were before” as people soon found ways to circumvent related measures (here). Clearly some fresh independent research would help.

The IFPI’s report also praises the increasingly common “three-strikes” system of Warning Letters, which are typically sent by broadband ISPs to customers suspected of involvement with the unlawful sharing of copyright content (music, movies, TV shows etc.).

Digital Music Report 2014 (Extract)

Additionally, rights holders work with ISPs on notification programmes aimed at educating users about the value of copyright. Such schemes exist in Chile, France, Ireland, New Zealand, South Korea and the US. Account holders are notified that their account is being used unlawfully, with the possibility of deterrent consequences such as fines if warnings are repeatedly ignored.

These programmes have proven effective where implemented, with use of unlicensed P2P networks declining by 27 per cent since September 2010 in France (Nielsen) and by 19 per cent since August 2011 in New Zealand (comScore).”

However France has since replaced its expensive and highly controversial anti-piracy Hadopi law, which threatened to disconnect internet users that continued to infringe copyright after warnings, with a series of automatic fines. Similarly a recent research paper written by Dr Rebecca Giblin found that the “three-strikes” schemes would not succeed in reducing copyright infringement (here).


Meanwhile the United Kingdom’s Digital Economy Act (DEAct) has faced several years of delay and as a result Rights Holders and the Government are now hoping to encourage the adoption of a Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) for Internet piracy warning letters (here), which faces quite a few hurdles of its own.

At the end of the day it’s also very difficult to know how much impact any of this is actually having upon music revenues, which have over the same period been impacted by the move from physical to digital media formats and the related introduction of unlimited music streaming services (e.g. Spotify). The BPI’s latest report for the UK provides a useful reflection of the current market (here).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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