Study shows how downloaders skirt anti-piracy laws
A study on the effects of a French law aimed at reducing Internet piracy has shown that canny "pirates" have plenty of ways to bypass legislation.
The credibility of France's controversial anti-piracy law (known in France as "Hadopi") has taken a dive after a study revealed that its main effects were to educate illegal downloaders in new ways of viewing copyrighted material for free.
Marsouin, a Brittany-based network of specialist research centres which interviewed 2,000 Internet users, yesterday published a damning report claiming that Hadopi is divorced from reality, overly repressive and has the opposite effects of those it sets out to achieve.
"By putting the stress on illegal 'peer-to-peer' file sharing, Hadopi has pushed pirates to find other ways of downloading copyrighted material that does not fall within the bounds of this French law," says Marsouin project coordinator Sylvain Dejean.
Dejean points out that while the number of peer-to-peer downloads has fallen by 15% since the law was introduced last year, the number of songs, films and software packages illegally downloaded has gone up by 3%.
Streaming and direct download
Video streaming is the number one beneficiary of the shift away from file sharing. Streaming involves seeing or listening to material broadcast "live" through often advertising-heavy websites.
Direct download sites (which often levy a small charge), such as Megaupload or Rapidshare, allow data to be downloaded directly, and thus do not fall under the "file sharing" bracket that is the main influence of the Hadopi law.
"Streaming is especially popular for watching TV series," says Dejean, "while direct download is more popular for downloading whole films."
Hadopi also threatens the huge market in legal paid-for downloads in allowing persistent offenders to have their Internet connections cut.
Dejean points out that many of the people interviewed in the poll said that while they did indulge in some illicit online activities, most also actively spend their money on products or services purchased online.
He goes so far as to suggest that if all illegal downloaders in France were "cut off", it would knock 25% off the legitimate Internet market. "If the main intention of this law is to give a boost to legal downloads, there is a big risk it could prove extremely counter-productive," he said.
Finally, Dejean anticipates a big growth in virtually untraceable newsgroup membership and use of virtual servers for finding copyrighted material. These groups may cost a few euros a months to join, but that is much less than paying through legal downloading sites.