January 11, 2011

Piracy Websites Attracting Billions Of Visitors

A new MarkMonitor study offers a snapshot into the changing nature of online piracy.

The anti-fraud firm monitored illegal traffic levels on 43 file-sharing sites and found that they generated over 53 billion visits per year.

The top three generated over 21 billion visits.

Sites like RapidShare.com, Megavideo.com and Megaupload.com are becoming as popular as peer-to-peer methods of accessing illegal content.

The study used a small sample of sites suggesting that the problem could be much bigger.

"The numbers are staggering," said Charlie Abrahams, vice president of MarkMonitor.

The study was put together following requests from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to identify trends and rogue sites.

Mark Mulligan, an analyst at research firm Forrester, told BBC News that the numbers of visits does not necessarily equate to the number of downloads.

However, it does show that commercial file-sharing sites, alongside other non-network based methods, are starting to become a popular way of sharing pirated music and films as peer-to-peer technologies.

"These upload sites index their files. It is very easy and convenient," he added.

"Upload sites, alongside instant messaging and blogs, are now on a par with peer-to-peer sites when it comes to piracy," he said.

What is more it is "proving difficult for content owners to do much about them", he said. 

Rapidshare has come under scrutiny from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), which blames the file-hosting firm for carrying huge amounts of pirated content.

It and other content owners want the firm to install filters to control the illegal content changing hands through the site.

However, the Higher Regional Court of Dusseldorf ruled in Germany this week that Rapidshare does not have to install such filters.

It found that the firm was "taking reasonable measures" to fight piracy.

Mulligan told BBC that the attempts to block the content being transacted over such sites brings back memories of the early attempts to shut down Napster.

"It is complete deja vu and it took a very long time to close that down," he said.

He said that with legislation on dealing with peer-to-peer illegal file-sharing already looking out of date, it could be time to find other ways to crack the nut.

"Illegal file-sharing is becoming incredibly complex and it is becoming over-burdensome to try and police it," he told BBC.


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