Online piracy bandwidth use up 160%

A study that provides an estimate of the shape and size of the piracy universe has found that in three key regions – North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific – absolute infringing bandwidth use increased by 159.3 per cent between 2010 and 2012, from 3,690 petabytes to 9,567 petabytes. This figure represents 23.8 per cent of the total bandwidth used by all Internet users, residential and commercial, in these three regions.

The report – Sizing the piracy universe – commissioned by NBCUniversal, was prepared by the Piracy Analysis team at NetNames, formerly known as Envisional.
The report is based on in-depth research of a range of ecosystems commonly used for the distribution of infringing content. The study demonstrates the number of unique Internet users who employ each infringement method to obtain material as well as the overall proportion of Internet bandwidth used by each ecosystem for infringement.
Among the report’s key findings:
  • Internet usage continues to grow at a rapid pace; and with it, so does Internet-based infringement.
  • The practise of infringement is tenacious and persistent. Despite some discrete instances of success in limiting infringement, the piracy universe not only persists in attracting more users year on year but hungrily consumes increasing amounts of bandwidth.
  • The free and simple availability of copyrighted content through piracy ecosystems continues to drive the popularity of hundreds of web sites, the actions of hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide, and the consumption of thousands of petabytes of Internet bandwidth.
  • Users of piracy ecosystems, the number of Internet users who regularly obtain infringing content, and the amount of bandwidth consumed by infringing uses of content all increased significantly between 2010 and 2013.
  • Three key regions – North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific – make up a majority of the Internet world, comprising 82.6 per cent of all Internet users and 95.1 per cent of all bandwidth consumed.
In these three regions:
  • Absolute infringing bandwidth use increased by 159.3 per cent between 2010 and 2012, from 3,690 petabytes to 9,567 petabytes. This figure represents 23.8 per cent of the total bandwidth used by all Internet users, residential and commercial, in these three regions.
  • 327.0 million unique Internet users explicitly sought infringing
  • content during January 2013. This figure increased by 9.9 per cent in the fifteen months from November 2011 and represents 25.9 per cent of the total Internet user population in these three regions (i.e., 1.26 billion Internet users)
  • 13.9 billion page views were recorded on web sites focused on piracy in January 2013. This figure increased by 9.8 per cent in the fifteen months from November 2011.
  • Worldwide, 432.0 million unique Internet users explicitly sought infringing content during January 2013.
In terms of infringement ecosystems, Bittorrent is the most popular peer-to-peer file distribution system worldwide and the protocol is one of the highest consumers of Internet bandwidth. In three key regions, the absolute amount of bandwidth consumed by the infringing use of bittorrent comprised 6,692 petabytes of data in 2012, an increase of 244.9 per cent from 2010.
Infringement through video streaming generally combines video streaming link sites with video hosting sites that are often called video streaming cyberlockers. In the three key regions, the absolute amount of bandwidth consumed by the infringing use of video streaming comprised 1,527 petabytes of data in 2012, an increase of 471.9 per cent from 2010.
In the same three regions, infringing use of video streaming in January 2013 accounted for 96.3 million unique Internet users, an increase of 27.7 per cent from November 2011, and 4.2 billion page views, an increase of 34.3 per cent from November 2011.
Almost every piracy-focused site used as the basis of analysis in the report is owned and run for profit. Business models differ slightly within the different ecosystems discussed, but the majority of these sites draw revenue from advertising, with others supplementing this income by offering users premium subscription accounts designed to offer faster access to content.
The report notes that efforts to restrict infringement through legal action or other methods have been only intermittently successful, limited by the abilities of those involved to use available processes and techniques to adequately tackle the complexities of the Internet world and the adaptive nature of infringement, the latter driven by a voracious online appetite for pirated content.
According to NetNames, the research provided in the report presents what is believed to be the first attempt to produce an accurate overall size estimate for the online piracy universe. “Estimating any activity that comprises a range of user behaviours, motives, and actions can be problematic and is inevitably open to criticism and question. By carefully outlining in the body of the report the methodologies used to produce the conclusions, it is hoped that the research might prompt further study in one of the most fascinating and consistently changing areas of the Internet.

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