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

Monday, March 24th, 2014 (8:09 am) - Score 1,724

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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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar Rupees Burdoch says:

    It’s definitely good to see these measures are having a positive impact on the digital economy and protecting valuable intellectual property. Yes there are some caveats to the initial research, but I think most of us know the vast majority of people don’t have the knowledge necessary to overcome server blocks. It’s a no-brainer blocking would be very effective.

    The UK definitely needs to push forward with the implementation of the three-strikes law though if it wants to be taken seriously as a major digital economy. It’s embarrassing how long this has taken to be implemented and there can be no more excuses from politicians.

    1. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      >most of us know the vast majority of people don’t have the knowledge necessary to overcome server blocks

      In order to get access to the Pirate Bay before the ban technically illiterate users had to enter “Pirate Bay” into Google, since the attempted “block” they have to enter “Pirate Bay” into Google …

    2. Avatar zemadeiran says:


      Beer for that man…

    3. Avatar four_eyes says:

      total muppet no brainer

    4. Avatar four_eyes says:

      lol 3 strikes me ass muppet

    5. Avatar timeless says:

      its funny but thats not what l heard, from the few industry professionals lve spoken to their usage has exploded, the difference being while more are visiting sites like (for example) The Pirate Bay the downloads arent being caught like they would be usually.

      that is to say, many more are encrypting their traffic. using VPN software and even removing their computer completely from the downloading process by using an intermediary server called a seedbox which is hosted remotely. and quite frankly even without extensive knowledge on the subject of getting round the blocks, from what lve seen its so simple to get around they just as well be walls made of paper. suffice to say all the Digital Economy Act has achieved is to push hardcore downloaders further underground and made them mum more clever about how they do it.

  2. Avatar adslmax says:

    IFPI reports can’t be trusted.

  3. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    I can speak from personal knowledge concerning anti blocking services available to very easily access the piratebay in all it’s glory!

    4+ million daily page views can attest to the futility of implementing such idiotic blocks along with their lame pr about p2p traffic.

    Copying digital content for personal use is not a criminal act, it is a right.

    The sooner people in the UK start standing up for their rights the better.

  4. Avatar hmmm says:

    UTTER FAIL carry on sharing plus you do not need to use websites to download
    if you no how

  5. Avatar Johno says:

    I don’t even have to use the internet to share.
    I’ve normally got a portable HDD/Flash floating around to copy files & backups etc.

  6. Avatar winner says:

    i think its about time all this nonsense was scraped the digital economy act was a flawed act that will never be implemented now the VCAP scheme total failure

  7. Avatar Darren says:

    20% drop in P2P traffic.. what and a 30% increase in HTTP? Oh dear, that backfired 🙂 I don’t beleive it for a second, even if it is true it doesn’t mean the traffic hasn’t moved to another protocol!

    Can I obtain the same content now as I could before the blocks?

    Is it now harder to obtain content?

    Is it now easyer to obtain content?
    Yes, plenty of mirrors for blocked sites and new sites are always popping up regardless of blocks.

    You cannot control what is available online, any efforts to block something just makes it easyer to access.

    They might aswell not block anything and just claim that they have and itunes is now the only place to get stuff. That would be more credible and effective.

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