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Research: Court-ordered site-blocking effective

Research carried out for the Australian Screen Association (ASA) on the effectiveness of court-ordered site blocking of pirate sites shows a decline in piracy to target pirate sites, other pirate sites and an uptake in licensed content.

The study was undertaken by Dr Brett Danaher, a visiting research Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University and focused on the three levels of evaluating the effectiveness of site blocking – being whether it decreases visits to the blocked sites, whether it decreases total piracy, and whether it increases legal consumption.

“Measuring the causal effect of piracy website blocking is difficult. We studied three waves of court-ordered ISP site blocking in the UK using a dataset on actual Internet user behaviour,” said Danaher.

Danaher has studied the effect of site blocking over a number of years dating back to 2012. His findings showed that blocking just one major piracy site did not reduce piracy or increase legal sales, as users of the site simply increased their visits to other unblocked piracy sites or found technical solutions to circumvent the block.

However, the research showed that simultaneously blocking a number of popular piracy sites caused a meaningful decrease in total piracy and a significant increase in legal consumption of video content.

It was also determined that further waves of site blocking continued to have an impact on total piracy and on legal consumption. In November 2014, 53 popular video piracy sites were blocked in the UK. This also caused a meaningful reduction in total piracy and a 6 per cent increase in traffic to paid legal streaming sites (as well as a 10 per cent increase in traffic to free legal streaming sites such as Channel 5).

“There appear to be diminishing returns to additional waves of site blocks, and yet these waves may also serve to prevent a return to the prior status quo,” advised Danaher.

Australian film and television actor, John Jarratt who is set to launch Wolf Creek next week said: “You’d put a lock on your door if someone kept breaking in and stealing your DVDs, so why not put a block on the portals and stop the buggers who operate the sites stealing our digital DVDs?”

Cowlick Entertainment Group’s Senior Producer and Development Executive, Bridget Callow-Wright said: “The reality is that the sites like these are eroding the future of young Australian creatives and are making it harder and harder for us to have sustainable careers in the business”.

Executive Chairman of the Australian Screen Association Paul Muller said: “Disabling pirate websites via the courts is one tool we can use that we know will have an impact on piracy, however this is part of a bigger strategy that includes better legislation, a strong education programme, continuing to make legal content available and affordable and the overall desire for people to want to do the right thing.”

“There are plenty of ways to enjoy creative content through legal channels. Creating an environment where creative content is respected will benefit audiences, creators and businesses alike, stimulating innovation, driving the creative economy and developing local culture.”

“Changing people’s attitudes and behaviours is a long running process. Just like it took a long time for people to look differently at smoking, it is going to take people a long time to think differently about piracy,” he concluded.

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