This is what happens to levels of piracy when police shut down an illegal site

Johnny Depp pirateThe Walt Disney CompanyWe now know more about piracy.

A group of academics has published a paper that examines what happens to piracy levels when police shut down an illegal movie streaming site.

Torrent Freak spotted the paper, which focuses on a German movie streaming site called kino.to. It was the biggest movie piracy site in the country, and the report calls it “the dominant platform providing access to unlicensed video streaming in 2011.”

Kino.to also brought in money from ads displayed on the site, and researchers say it was bringing in around €150,000 in ad revenue every single month.

Kino.to was shut down on June 8, 2011. From there, researchers measured the number of clicks on pirate links to observe what effect a police seizure has on piracy.

This chart shows the immediate effect that the kino.to shutdown had on levels of piracy:

The red line shows clicks to kino.to, the piracy site that was shut down. As expected, traffic plummeted. But what’s interesting here is the immediate effect on total piracy — it saw a sudden decline, but then picked up again just weeks later.

One of the reasons why piracy dipped and then picked up again following the kino.to shutdown is that multiple other piracy sites became more popular, and a new replacement site (kinox.to) appeared to fill the gap.

There was not a huge amount of people dissuaded from piracy due to the kino.to shutdown. The paper says that there was a “relatively limited substitution into licensed consumption” following the site’s seizure.

The paper’s authors say that targeting one large site at a time “potentially makes future law enforcement interventions either more costly – as there would not be a single dominant platform to shutdown anymore.”

The paper makes it clear that it’s incredibly difficult to make a significant, long-lasting dent in online piracy. Sure, police can shut down a popular site, causing a brief dent in levels of online piracy, but alternatives will always spring up.

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