U of Amsterdam: Some anti-piracy moves are effective while others are not

Source: American University International Law Review via SSRN

A study by the University of Amsterdam Institute for Information Law, published on August 17 in the American University International Law Review, suggests that, while video piracy continues to increase, the overall trend is that online piracy of e-books, games, music, films and series is on the decline. This decline has been driven by the availability of affordable legal alternatives to consumers. The study also notes that “policymakers should … shift their focus from repressive approaches…toward policies and measures that foster lawful remunerated access to copyright-protected content.”

Blocking of illegal content through technological anti-piracy countermeasures had little effect on video piracy because consumers simply look elsewhere for the content. The fragmented nature of illegal sources has made piracy “resilient to subsequent interventions.” But the “simultaneously blocking a large number of websites … had a statistically significant negative effect on total online piracy and a positive effect on the use of legal video streaming.”

Research was aggregated from multiple sources, including a consumer survey of about 35,000 respondents. Thirteen countries were studied, in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Consumers in different countries have different predisposition for pirated content. In Spain, more than 40% of content is from pirates, while in Japan, it’s less than 10%. Worldwide, about 95% of the consumers that consume pirate content also consume legitimate content.

Download the study, titled “The Decline of Online Piracy: How Markets – Not Enforcement – Drive Down Copyright Infringement” from SSRN

What it means

The study concludes that the sales loss due to piracy is about 4% worldwide. Intuition says that this seems low. On the other hand, a 2018 study by Strategy Analytics sponsored by Huawei and reported by Broadband TV News estimated that the global video market in 2019 will be valued at about $761 Billion; 4% of which would be $30 Billion – not a small number.

The study also validates the conclusion that anti-piracy consists of a mix of technological solutions that detect and intervene against piracy, combined with business, legal and policy-based countermeasures.

Lastly, this study contends that content and service providers which provide consumer incentives with piracy-reduction in mind are on the right track. Or, said another way, carrots make better incentives than sticks do.