EU: Shutting Down Piracy Sites is Futile

By Nick Cowen on at

The European Commission has finally realised that shutting down piracy sites is about as effective as building a chocolate fire engines. Much like low level street dealers, if you remove one, there's about five or six lining up to take their place.

Maybe that's a slightly unfair comparison, but the logic is sound. A recent report published by the by the European Commission's Joint Research Center, which analysed the consequences of shutting down a German piracy site in June of 2011, found that in the long run it had very little effect on piracy. In fact, it simply opened up the market for other, similar sites.

"Using individual-level clickstream data, we find that the shutdown led to significant but short-lived declines in piracy levels," the report read. "The existence of alternative sources of unlicensed consumption, coupled with the rapid emergence of new platforms, led the streaming piracy market to quickly recover from the intervention and to limited substitution into licensed consumption."

"Our results therefore present evidence of a high elasticity of supply in the online movie piracy market, together with relatively low switching costs for users of copyright infringing platforms. The post-shutdown market structure was much more fragmented, thus making it potentially more resistant to any future interventions."

While this might make for grim reading for anyone involved in the distribution of media, it's not exactly news to anyone who's even glanced at the piracy market. When the Pirate Bay was shut down last December, it took a matter of days before a ton of mirror sites came online.