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Study Claims 24% of Traffic is Infringing, but Author Admits Copyright Holders to Blame


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Dr. David Price, Head of Piracy Intelligence for Envisional says the "availability of legit content in the US may be one reason why infringing use is lower in the country than elsewhere worldwide." It makes one wonder if the percentage here and abroad would be even lower if copyright holders increased the availability of digital content to and make viable legal alternatives available to BitTorrent users.

Part of the problem with copyright holders and their war on piracy is their refusal to give consumers what they want. They still stick to outdated business models that restrict content to certain geographic locations that ignore the fact that consumers can use the Internet to bypass their arbitrary restrictions.

A new NBC Universal study claims that 23.8% of global Internet traffic is piracy-related with BitTorrent comprising nearly of it it. Only 17% of US traffic infringing.

The study by Dr. David Price, Head of Piracy Intelligence for Envisional, also found that cyberlocker sites accounted for 5.1% and video streaming sites accounted for 1.4% of global infringing traffic.

It's curious to note that music makes up barely 2.9% of infringing torrents on the trackers it examined on PublicBT whereas porn, films, and TV shows were by far the most popular (35.8%, 35.2%, and 12.7%).

Could it be that the reason pirates illegally download these types of content so frequently be that either exists no viable legal alternatives? Music has Apple's iTunes which goes to great lengths to satisfy music fans demand, but thanks to copyright holder recalcitrance there is no comparable iTunes for video. Apple has tried, but movie studios and TV broadcasters are afraid of upsetting their current business model even though it's largely to blame for piracy in the first place.

Additionally, copyright holders only release movies and TV shows in certain locations at certain times, and for certain prices. Any miscalculation in these variables will only drive consumers to illegal alternatives – that's what piracy does! If a guy wants to watch a new episode of 'The Office," for example, but he lives in Australia, P2P or illegal streaming is likely to be the only way he'll be able to watch it.

The same goes for movies. They follow an odd roll schedule instead of airing it in theaters all at once. Years ago in order to fight piracy it sped up the release dates in China and Russia. Why not simply show a movie everywhere at once? It has to be cheaper than trying to police the entire world for bootleg DVDs or the entire Internet for illegal CAM copies.

The Washington Posts' Rob Pegoraro asked Price his thoughts about the effects of geographic distribution restrictions on piracy, and he admitted it does likely increase it.

"I think the availability of legit content in the US may be one reason why infringing use is lower in the country than elsewhere worldwide: the US has Hulu, Netflix, Amazon VOD, Vudu, streaming content from the tv networks, etc," he said. "This level of availability just can't be found elsewhere. Further, the content in the greatest demand online is that which originates from the US — television shows and films in particular — which often take a while before they appear in other countries."

It makes one wonder if the percentage here and abroad would be even lower if copyright holders increased the availability of digital content to and make viable legal alternatives available to BitTorrent users.

I brought up the example of a guy in Australia because I really do have a friend there who's had to resort to BitTorrent to find American TV shows and movies to watch. He moved there six months ago and was surprise to find that series' like "The Office" are a year or more behind the broadcast schedule of the US.

The MPAA sadly uses the study to argue that govts and ISPs need to fix the "problem" that it's helped to create in the first place.

"Our society would not tolerate a situation where one-quarter of all the traffic in and out of the bakeries, butcher shops and grocery stores involved stolen merchandise, and we cannot tolerate the vast explosion of digital theft on the Internet," says Bob Pisano, President and Interim CEO of the Motion Picture

Association of America. " With download speeds and server capacity increasing every day, the problem will only get worse if we don't do something about it. The time for governments and industries to act is now."

Aside from the fact that digital piracy isn't the same as physical piracy (digital content has an infinite supply), what are consumers expected to do if the bakers, butchers and grocers of the world refuse to give their customers what they want or even refuse to open a shop on their block?

As long as copyright holders refuse to make a comparable legal alternative to BitTorrent the problem will persist.

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