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ISPs and Movie Industry Prepare Canadian Pirate Site Blocking Deal


ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.

In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.

In most countries, these blockades are ordered by local courts, which compel Internet providers to restrict access to certain websites. In Canada, however, there’s a plan in the works to allow for website blockades without judicial oversight.

A coalition of movie industry companies and ISPs, including Bell, Rogers, and Cineplex are discussing a proposal to implement such measures. The Canadian blocklist would be maintained by a new non-profit organization called “Internet Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and enforced through the CTRC, Canadaland reports.

The plan doesn’t come as a total surprise as Bell alluded to a nationwide blocking mechanism during a recent Government hearing. What becomes clear from the new plans, however, is that the telco is not alone.

The new proposal is being discussed by various stakeholders including ISPs and local movie companies. As in other countries, major American movie companies are also in the loop, but they will not be listed as official applicants when the plan is submitted to the CRTC.

Canadian law professor Micheal Geist is very critical of the plans. Although the proposal would only cover sites that “blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally” engage in or facilitate copyright infringement, this can be a blurry line.

“Recent history suggests that the list will quickly grow to cover tougher judgment calls. For example, Bell has targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content,” Geist notes.

“It can be expected that many other sites disliked by rights holders or broadcasters would find their way onto the block list,” he adds.

While the full list of applicants is not ready yet, it is expected that the coalition will file its proposal to the CRTC before the end of the month.

Thus far, the Government appears to be reluctant in its response. In comments to Canadaland spokesperson Karl Sasseville stressed that Canada maintains committed to an open Internet.

“Our government supports an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance to Canadian laws,” Sasseville says. “While other parts of the world are focused on building walls, we’re focused on opening doors‎.”

As we’ve seen in the past, “net neutrality” and website blocking are not mutually exclusive. Courts around the world, also in Canada, have ordered content to be blocked, open Internet or not. However, bypassing the judicial system may prove to be a problem.

Professor Geist is happy with the Government’s comments and notes that legal basis for the proposal is thin.

He stresses that the ISPs involved in these plans should seriously consider if they want to continue down this path, which isn’t necessarily in the best interest of their customers.

“The government rightly seems dismissive of the proposal in the Canadaland report but as leading Internet providers, Bell and Rogers should be ashamed for leading the charge on such a dangerous, anti-speech and anti-consumer proposal,” Geist concludes.

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GoMovies/123Movies Launches Anime Streaming Site


Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.

The popular movie streaming site GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. Despite the rebranding and several domain changes, it has built a steady base of millions of users over the past year and a half.

And it’s not done yet, we learn today.

The site, currently operating from the Gostream.is domain name, recently launched a new spinoff targeting anime fans. Animehub.to is currently promoted on GoMovies and the site’s operators aim to turn it into the leading streaming site for anime content.

Animehub.to

Someone connected to GoMovies told us that they’ve received a lot of requests from users to add anime content. Anime has traditionally been a large niche on file-sharing sites and the same is true on streaming platforms.

Technically speaking, GoMovies could have easily filled up the original site with anime content, but the owners prefer a different outlet.

With a separate anime site, they hope to draw in more visitors, TorrentFreak was told by an insider. For one, this makes it possible to rank better in search engines. It also allows the operators to cater specifically to the anime audience, with anime specific categories and release schedules.

Anime copyright holders will not be pleased with the new initiative, that’s for sure, but GoMovies is not new to legal pressure.

Earlier this year the US Ambassador to Vietnam called on the local Government to criminally prosecute people behind 123movies, the previous iteration of the site. In addition, the MPAA reported the site to the US Government in its recent overview of notorious pirate sites.

Pressure or not, it appears that GoMovies has no intention of slowing down or changing its course, although we’ve heard that yet another rebranding is on the horizon.

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Coalition Against Piracy Wants Singapore to Block Streaming Piracy Software


Earlier this year, major industry players including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge coalition set to tackle piracy on a global scale.

Shortly after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, Viacom International, and others among its members.

In several recent reports, CAP has homed in on the piracy situation in Singapore. Describing the phenomenon as “rampant”, the group says that around 40% of locals engage in the practice, many of them through unlicensed streaming. Now CAP, in line with its anti-streaming stance, wants the government to do more – much more.

Since a large proportion of illicit streaming takes place through set-top devices, CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside them that enables piracy, Straits Times reports.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane.

“They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

There are no precise details on CAP’s demands but it is far from clear how any government could effectively block software.

Blocking access to the software package itself would prove all but impossible, so that would leave blocking the infrastructure the software uses. While that would be relatively straightforward technically, the job would be large and fast-moving, particularly when dozens of apps and addons would need to be targeted.

However, CAP is also calling on the authorities to block pirate streams from entering Singapore. The country already has legislation in place that can be used for site-blocking, so that is not out of the question. It’s notable that the English Premier League is part of the CAP coalition and following legal action taken in the UK earlier this year, now has plenty of experience in blocking streams, particularly of live broadcasts.

While that is a game of cat-and-mouse, TorrentFreak sources that have been monitoring the Premier League’s actions over the past several months report that the soccer outfit has become more effective over time. Its blocks can still be evaded but it can be hard work for those involved. That kind of expertise could prove invaluable to CAP.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in its most comprehensive global anti-piracy programme,” a spokesperson told ST. “This includes supporting our broadcast partners in South-east Asia with their efforts to prevent the sale of illicit streaming devices.”

In common with other countries around the world, the legality of using ‘pirate’ streaming boxes is somewhat unclear in Singapore. A Bloomberg report cites a local salesman who reports sales of 10 to 20 boxes on a typical weekend, rising to 300 a day during electronic fairs. He believes the devices are legal, since they don’t download full copies of programs.

While that point is yet to be argued in court (previously an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore spokesperson said that copyright owners could potentially go after viewers), it seems unlikely that those selling the devices will be allowed to continue completely unhindered. The big question is how current legislation can be successfully applied.

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Could a Single Copyright Complaint Kill Your Domain?


It goes without saying that domain names are a crucial part of any site’s infrastructure. Without domains, sites aren’t easily findable and when things go wrong, the majority of web users could be forgiven for thinking that they no longer exist.

That was the case last week when Canada-based mashup site Sowndhaus suddenly found that its domain had been rendered completely useless. As previously reported, the site’s domain was suspended by UK-based registrar DomainBox after it received a copyright complaint from the IFPI.

There are a number of elements to this story, not least that the site’s operators believe that their project is entirely legal.

“We are a few like-minded folks from the mashup community that were tired of doing the host dance – new sites welcome us with open arms until record industry pressure becomes too much and they mass delete and ban us,” a member of the Sowndhaus team informs TF.

“After every mass deletion there are a wave of producers that just retire and their music is lost forever. We decided to make a more permanent home for ourselves and Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act gave us the opportunity to do it legally.
We just want a small quiet corner of the internet where we can make music without being criminalized. It seems insane that I even have to say that.”

But while these are all valid concerns for the Sowndhaus community, there is a bigger picture here. There is absolutely no question that sites like YouTube and Soundcloud host huge libraries of mashups, yet somehow they hang on to their domains. Why would DomainBox take such drastic action? Is the site a real menace?

“The IFPI have sent a few standard DMCA takedown notices [to Sowndhaus, indirectly], each about a specific track or tracks on our server, asking us to remove them and any infringing activity. Every track complained about has been transformative, either a mashup or a remix and in a couple of cases cover versions,” the team explains.

But in all cases, it appears that IFPI and its agents didn’t take the time to complain to the site first. They instead went for the site’s infrastructure.

“[IFPI] have never contacted us directly, even though we have a ‘report copyright abuse’ feature on our site and a dedicated copyright email address. We’ve only received forwarded emails from our host and domain registrar,” the site says.

Sowndhaus believes that the event that led to the domain suspension was caused by a support ticket raised by the “RiskIQ Incident Response Team”, who appear to have been working on behalf of IFPI.

“We were told by DomainBox…’Please remove the unlawful content from your website, or the domain will be suspended. Please reply within the next 5 working days to ensure the request was actioned’,” Sowndhaus says.

But they weren’t given five days, or even one. DomainBox chose to suspend the Sowndhaus.com domain name immediately, rendering the site inaccessible and without even giving the site a chance to respond.

“They didn’t give us an option to appeal the decision. They just took the IFPI’s word that the files were unlawful and must be removed,” the site informs us.

Intrigued at why DomainBox took the nuclear option, TorrentFreak sent several emails to the company but each time they went unanswered. We also sent emails to Mesh Digital Ltd, DomainBox’s operator, but they were given the same treatment.

We wanted to know on what grounds the registrar suspended the domain but perhaps more importantly, we wanted to know if the company is as aggressive as this with its other customers.

To that end we posed a question: If DomainBox had been entrusted with the domains of YouTube or Soundcloud, would they have acted in the same manner? We can’t put words in their mouth but it seems likely that someone in the company would step in to avoid a PR disaster on that scale.

Of course, both YouTube and Soundcloud comply with the law by taking down content when it infringes someone’s rights. It’s a position held by Sowndhaus too, even though they do not operate in the United States.

“We comply fully with the Copyright Act (Canada) and have our own policy of removing any genuinely infringing content,” the site says, adding that users who infringe are banned from the platform.

While there has never been any suggestion that IFPI or its agents asked for Sowndhaus’ domain to be suspended, it’s clear that DomainBox made a decision to do just that. In some cases that might have been warranted, but registrars should definitely aim for a clear, transparent and fair process, so that the facts can be reviewed and appropriate action taken.

It’s something for people to keep in mind when they register a domain in future.

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Google Says It Can’t Filter Pirated Content Proactively


Over the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to its anti-piracy efforts.

These calls haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has steadily implemented various anti-piracy measures in response.

Still, that is not enough. At least, according to several prominent music industry groups who are advocating a ‘Take Down, Stay Down’ approach.

Currently, Google mostly responds to takedown requests that are sent in by copyright holders. The search engine deletes the infringing results and demotes the domains of frequent infringers. However, the same content often reappears on other sites, or in another location on the same site.

Earlier this year a group of prominent music groups stated that the present situation forces rightsholders to participate in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole which doesn’t fix the underlying problem. Instead, it results in a “frustrating, burdensome and ultimately ineffective takedown process.”

While Google understands the rationale behind the complaints, the company doesn’t believe in a more proactive solution. This was reiterated by Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations at Google, during the Royal Television Society Event in London this week.

“The music industry has been quite tough with us on this. They’d like us proactively to know this stuff. It’s just not possible in this industry,” Brittin said.

That doesn’t mean that Google is sitting still. Brittin stresses that the company has invested millions in anti-piracy tools. That said, there can always be room for improvement.

“What we’ve tried to do is build tools that allow them to do that at scale easily and that work all together … I’m sure there are places where we could do better. There are teams and millions of dollars invested in this.

“Combatting bad acts and piracy is obviously very important to us,” Brittin added.

While Google sees no room for proactive filtering in search results, music industry insiders believe it’s possible.

Ideally, they want some type of automated algorithm or technology that removes infringing results without a targeted DMCA notice. This could be similar to YouTube’s Content-ID system, or the hash filtering mechanisms Google Drive employs, for example.

For now, however, there’s no sign that Google will go beyond the current takedown notice approach, at least for search. A ‘Take Down, Stay Down’ mechanism wouldn’t “understand” when content is authorized or not, the company previously noted.

And so, the status quo is likely to remain, at least for now.

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New Piracy Scaremongering Video Depicts ‘Dangerous’ Raspberry Pi


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be aware that online streaming of video is a massive deal right now.

In addition to the successes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, for example, unauthorized sources are also getting a piece of the digital action.

Of course, entertainment industry groups hate this and are quite understandably trying to do something about it. Few people have a really good argument as to why they shouldn’t but recent tactics by some video-affiliated groups are really starting to wear thin.

From the mouth of Hollywood itself, the trending worldwide anti-piracy message is that piracy is dangerous. Torrent sites carry viruses that will kill your computer, streaming sites carry malware that will steal your identity, and ISDs (that’s ‘Illegal Streaming Devices’, apparently) can burn down your home, kill you, and corrupt your children.

If anyone is still taking notice of these overblown doomsday messages, here’s another one. Brought to you by the Hollywood-funded Digital Citizens Alliance, the new video rams home the message – the exact same message in fact – that set-top boxes providing the latest content for free are a threat to, well, just about everything.

While the message is probably getting a little old now, it’s worth noting the big reveal at ten seconds into the video, where the evil pirate box is introduced to the viewer.

As reproduced in the left-hand image below, it is a blatantly obvious recreation of the totally content-neutral Raspberry Pi, the affordable small computer from the UK. Granted, people sometimes use it for Kodi (the image on the right shows a Kodi-themed Raspberry Pi case, created by official Kodi team partner FLIRC) but its overwhelming uses have nothing to do with the media center, or indeed piracy.

Disreputable and dangerous device? Of course not

So alongside all the scary messages, the video succeeds in demonizing a perfectly innocent and safe device of which more than 15 million have been sold, many of them directly to schools. Since the device is so globally recognizable, it’s a not inconsiderable error.

It’s a topic that the Kodi team itself vented over earlier this week, noting how the British tabloid media presented the recent wave of “Kodi Boxes Can Kill You” click-bait articles alongside pictures of the Raspberry Pi.

“Instead of showing one of the many thousands of generic black boxes sold without the legally required CE/UL marks, the media mainly chose to depict a legitimate Rasbperry Pi clothed in a very familiar Kodi case. The Pis originate from Cambridge, UK, and have been rigorously certified,” the team complain.

“We’re also super-huge fans of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and the proceeds of Pi board sales fund the awesome work they do to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in schools. The Kodi FLIRC case has also been a hit with our Raspberry Pi users and sales contribute towards the cost of events like Kodi DevCon.”

“It’s insulting, and potentially harmful, to see two successful (and safe) products being wrongly presented for the sake of a headline,” they conclude.

Indeed, it seems that both press and the entertainment industry groups that feed them have been playing fast and loose recently, with the Raspberry Pi getting a particularly raw deal.

Still, if it scares away some pirates, that’s the main thing….

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Epic Games Settles First Copyright Case Against Fortnite Cheater


Frustrated by thousands of cheaters who wreak havoc in Fortnite’s “Battle Royale,” game publisher Epic Games decided to take several of them to court.

One of the defendants is Minnesota resident Charles Vraspir, a.k.a. “Joreallean,”

The game publisher accused him of copyright infringement and breach of contract, by injecting unauthorized computer code in order to cheat.

According to Epic’s allegations, Vraspir was banned at least nine times but registered new accounts to continue his cheating. In addition, he was also suspected of having written code for the cheats.

“Defendant’s cheating, and his inducing and enabling of others to cheat, is ruining the game playing experience of players who do not cheat,” Epic games wrote.

While the complaint included all the elements for an extensive legal battle, both sides chose to resolve the case without much of a fight. Yesterday, they informed the court that a settlement had been reached.

Epic Games’ counsel asked the court to enter the agreement as well as a permanent injunction, which both have agreed on.

The proposed injunction, signed today, forbids Vraspir from carrying out any copyright infringements in the future, to destroy all cheats, and to never cheat again.

Among other things, he is prohibited from “creating, writing, developing, advertising, promoting, and/or distributing anything that infringes Epic’s works now or hereafter protected by any of Epic’s copyrights.”

While there is no mention of a settlement fee or fine, Vraspir will have to pay $5,000 if he breaches the agreement.

From the injunction

Based on the swift settlement, it can be assumed that Epic Games is not aiming to bankrupt the cheaters. Instead, it’s likely that the company wants to set an example and deter others from cheating in the future.

In addition to the settlement, Epic Games also responded to the mother of the 14-year-old cheater who was sued in a separate case. After we first covered the news last week it was quickly picked up by mainstream media, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the game publisher either.

The mother accused Epic of taking a minor to court and making his personal info known to the public.

In a response this week, the company notes that it had no idea of the age of the defendant when it filed the complaint. In addition, Epic notes that by handing over his full name and address in the unredacted letter, she exposed her son.

The rules dictate that filings mentioning an individual known to be a minor should use the minor’s initials only, not the full name as the mother did. While the mother may have waived this protection with her letter, Epic says it will stick to the initials going forward.

“Although there is an argument that by submitting the Letter to the Court containing Defendant’s name and address, Defendant’s mother waived this protection […] we plan to include only Defendant’s initials or redact his name entirely in all future filings with the Court, including this letter.”

Given the quick settlement in the Vraspir case, it’s likely that the case against the 14-year-old boy will also be resolved without much additional damage. That is, if both sides can come to an agreement.

A copy of the yet unsigned stipulation and injunction is available here (pdf). The reply to the mother can be found here (pdf).

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European Commission Steps Up Fight Against Online Piracy


The European Commission has had copyright issues at the top of its agenda for a while, resulting in several controversial proposals.

This week it presented a series of new measures to ensure that copyright holders are well protected, targeting both online piracy and counterfeit goods.

“Today we boost our collective ability to catch the ‘big fish’ behind fake goods and pirated content which harm our companies and our jobs – as well as our health and safety in areas such as medicines or toys,” Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska announced.

The Commission notes that it’s stepping up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. However, many of the proposals are not entirely new for those who follow anti-piracy issues around the globe.

One of the main goals is to focus on the people who facilitate copyright infringement, such as pirate site operators, and try to cut their revenue streams.

“The Commission seeks to deprive commercial-scale IP infringers of the revenue flows that make their criminal activity lucrative – this is the so-called ‘follow the money’ approach which focuses on the ‘big fish’ rather than individuals,” they write.

Instead of using legislation to reach this goal, the Commission prefers to continue its support for voluntary agreements between copyright holders and third-party services. This includes deals with advertising and payment services to cut their ties with pirate sites.

“Such agreements can lead to faster action against counterfeiting and piracy than court actions,” the Commission writes.

Another tool to fight piracy appears on the agenda for the first time. The European Commission notes that it will also support the quest for new anti-piracy initiatives, including the use of blockchain technology.

“Supporting industry-led initiatives to combat IP infringements, including work on Memoranda of Understanding and exploring the potential of new technologies such as blockchain to combat IP infringements in supply chains,” the suggestion reads.

No concrete examples were given but earlier this week, European Parliament member Brando Benifei wrote an article on the issue in Euractiv.

Benifei mentions that blockchain technology can help independent artists collect royalty payments without the need for middlemen. In a similar vein, blockchains can also be used to track the unauthorized distribution of works.

In addition to broadening the anti-piracy horizon, the European Commission also released a new guidance on how the current IPR Enforcement Directive (IPRED) should be interpreted, taking into account various recent developments, including landmark EU Court of Justice rulings.

The guidance explains how and when it’s appropriate to issue website blocking orders, for example. In general, blocking injunctions are warranted when they are proportional and aimed at preventing concrete infringements.

The comprehensive guidance also covers the issue of filtering. Interestingly, the Commission clarifies that third-party services can’t be required to “install and operate excessively broad, unspecific and expensive filtering systems.”

This appears to run counter to the mandatory piracy filters that were suggested as part of the copyright reform proposal.

However, the Commission notes that in some specific cases, hosting providers (e.g. YouTube) can be ordered to monitor uploads. This is in line with a recent communication which recommended that online services should implement measures to automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

While the new plans continue down the path of stronger copyright protections, not all rightsholders are happy. IFPI is glad that the main problems are highlighted, but would have liked to have seen more concrete plans.

“We are disappointed that despite the European Commission recognizing the need to modernize IPRED and years of evidence gathering, today’s result is merely guidance to EU Member State governments. Soft law does not give right holders the tools they need to take effective action against pirate services,” IFPI writes.

On the other side of the divide, opposition to the previously announced EU copyright reform plans continues as well. Earlier today a group of over 80 organizations urged EU member states to speak out against several controversial copyright proposals, including the upload filter.

“The signatories warn the Member states that the discussion around the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture,” they say.

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YouTube Begins Blocking Music in Finland Due to Licensing Failure (Updated)


YouTube is used by millions of people worldwide to access a broad range of content but it is music that is increasingly one of the platform’s big draws.

With an almost unrivaled library, YouTube is the go-to service for music fans globally but over in Finland this morning, things aren’t playing out well.

As shown in the image below, users who try to access music are now getting the following graphic. When translated the text reads “Video content owned by Teosto. The video can not be used in your country.”

No license…..No access…<Unavailble in Finland

This is a pretty big deal. Teosto is a Finnish performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of local artists and composers. It represents around 30,000 local songwriters and publishers, small fry when compared to the three million foreign music entities it represents in Finland.

This means that YouTube must have pulled huge volumes of content from its platform locally, rendering the service far less attractive to users. However, according to a TorrentFreak source, things go much further than standard modern licensed music.

As shown in the image below, even music published in 1899 has found itself pulled from the platform.

Jean Sibelius’ masterpiece Finlandia? Gone..

The music licensing dispute, which appears to have led to millions of tracks being rendered inaccessible in Finland, was confirmed by YouTube this morning.

“We were unable to reach a new licensing agreement with TEOSTO. Because of this, some videos containing music will be blocked in Finland,” the team said.

While the removal of content will come as a disappointment to the quarter of Finnish citizens who use YouTube regularly, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

In September, Teosto issued an opinion on copyrights to Parliament’s Education Committee. The licensing group complained that rightsholders aren’t adequately compensated for content played on platforms like YouTube. Like other groups in the same position, Teosto is looking to obtain more revenue for its members. That seems to be the basis for the dispute with YouTube.

For YouTube to have pulled so much content, negotiations must have really broken down, but Teosto sounded a note of optimism this morning. The group noted that while Google had indeed pulled music content from YouTube in Finland, it may reinstate it during the next couple of days.

Update: We have a statement from Sami Valkonen, Director of International Music Publishing Partnerships at YouTube – EMEA

“We are in active conversations to bring TEOSTO content back to YouTube in Finland. Our previous licensing agreement had expired so videos containing music represented by TEOSTO are currently blocked in Finland in accordance with copyright law. Talks are proceeding on good terms and we look forward to having great music back up on YouTube in Finland as soon as possible.”

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Netflix Is Not Going to Kill Piracy, Research Suggests


There is little doubt that, in many countries, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.

Generally speaking, on-demand streaming services are convenient alternatives to piracy. However, millions of people stick to their old pirate habits, Netflix subscription or not.

Intrigued by this interplay of legal and unauthorized viewing, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Universidade Católica Portuguesa carried out an extensive study. They partnered with a major telco, which is not named, to analyze if BitTorrent downloading habits can be changed by offering legal alternatives.

The researchers used a piracy-tracking firm to get a sample of thousands of BitTorrent pirates at the associated ISP. Half of them were offered a free 45-day subscription to a premium TV and movies package, allowing them to watch popular content on demand.

To measure the effects of video-on-demand access on piracy, the researchers then monitored the legal viewing activity and BitTorrent transfers of the people who received the free offer, comparing it to a control group. The results show that piracy is harder to beat than some would expect.

Subscribers who received the free subscription watched more TV, but overall their torrenting habits didn’t change significantly.

“We find that, on average, households that received the gift increased overall TV consumption by 4.6% and reduced Internet downloads and uploads by 4.2% and 4.5%, respectively. However, and also on average, treated households did not change their likelihood of using BitTorrent during the experiment,” the researchers write.

One of the main problems was that these ‘pirates’ couldn’t get all their favorite shows and movies on the legal service, which is a common problem. For the small portion of subscribers who had access to their preferred content, the researchers did find an effect on torrent traffic.

“Households with preferences aligned with the gifted content reduced their probability of using BitTorrent during the experiment by 18% and decreased their amount of upload traffic by 45%,” the paper reads.

The video-on-demand service in the study had an average “fit” of just 12% with people’s viewing preferences, which means that they were missing a lot of content. But even Netflix, which has a library of thousands of titles, only has a fit of roughly 50%.

The researchers show that the lack of availability is partly caused by licensing windows, which makes it hard for legal video streaming services to compete with piracy.

“We show that licensing windows impose significant restrictions on the content that can be included in SVoD catalogs, which hampers the ability of content distributors to offer catalogs that cater to the preferences of pirates,” they write.

However, even if more content became available, piracy wouldn’t magically disappear. In the experiment, subscribers were offered free access to a video on demand service. In the real world, they would have to pay, which presents another barrier.

In this study, the pirate households were willing to pay at most $3.25 USD per month to access a service with a library as large as Netflix’s in the United States. That’s not enough.

This leads the researchers to the grim conclusion that video on demand services such as Netflix can’t significantly lower piracy rates. They could make a dent if they increase their content libraries while lowering the price at the same time, but that’s not going to happen.

“Together, our results show that, as a stand-alone strategy, using legal SVoD to curtail piracy will require, at the minimum, offering content much earlier and at much lower prices than those currently offered in the marketplace, changes that are likely to reduce industry revenue and that may damage overall incentives to produce new content while, at the same time, curbing only a small share of piracy,” the researchers conclude.

While Hollywood maintains that people can get pretty much anything they want legally, the current research shows that it’s not as simple as that. Most people are not going to pay for 22 separate subscriptions. Instead of more streaming services, it would be better to make more content available at the ones that are already out there.

The research was partially funded by the Carnegie Mellon University’s IDEA, which receives an unrestricted gift from the MPAA, so Hollywood will likely be clued in on the results.

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