Three-strikes anti-piracy law 'doesn't deter piracy'

Three-strikes anti-piracy law 'doesn't deter piracy'

Summary: A study has found that three-strikes policies don't work, even when consumers overestimate which channels are being monitored for piracy.

TOPICS: Piracy, Legal, EU

A study involving thousands of French internet users has found that the country's "three strikes" anti-piracy policies don't actually curb piracy.

Researchers from the universities of Delaware and Rennes looking into the impact of France's Hadopi law — which threatened to cut off internet access for users found to have infringed copyright three times — have found the legislation is probably not having its desired impact of detering piracy and converting pirates into legal consumers.

The researchers tested their observations of 2,000 French citizens' legal and illegal consumption of music, movies and TV programmes, as well as their knowledge of the Hadopi law, against the model of "intertemporal criminal choice".

The model looks at how people weigh-up gains from committing a crime against the cost of being caught, in a scenario where a person can enjoy something today and face the threat of uncertain punishment in the future.

"A graduated response policy like the Hadopi law alters the timing of detection and punishment (by delaying punishment until a third warning is received)," the researchers said.

While an increased chance of getting caught should deter piracy, the researchers' say their model correctly predicted that under a graduated response system, a higher chance of detection doesn't affect whether or not a person pirates online content.

"Consistent with theoretical predictions, our econometric results indicate that the Hadopi law has not deterred individuals from engaging in digital piracy and that it did not reduce the intensity of illegal activity of those who did engage in piracy," they note.

Also, while services like iTunes and Spotify are often credited with combating piracy by providing legal channels to purchase music and other media, the fact that penalties for copyright-infringement are uncertain and delayed may actually create an incentive to increase illegal content acquisition — at least before a warning letter is received.

A third factor is that those wise to the law, who, for example, know that only P2P traffic fell within the scope of anti-piracy legislation, may turn to alternative illegal sources, such as direct download or streaming sites.

The survey found that on average, people believed their probability of detection was 36 percent, but most people overestimated the reach of the law. While most people (75 percent) understood that P2P networks were monitored, 68 percent incorrectly believed direct download was also being monitored, 37 percent believed streaming sites were being monitored and 12 percent believed offline sharing was being monitored.

Despite the high-level of over-estimation, the researchers didn't find evidence to support the prediction that a graduated response policy deterred individuals from engaging in digital piracy.

On the other hand, they not that "there is evidence that the law encourages internet users who better understand the law and alternative piracy channels (those with many digital pirates in their social network) to substitute away from the monitored P2P channel and to obtain content through unmonitored illegal channels." 

They conclude that graduate response polices are not effective deterrents "at least until a significant portion of the population has received initial warnings and faces punishment upon receiving a subsequent warning."

More on Hadopi

Topics: Piracy, Legal, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Best way to cure piracy

    Once captured, quick trial to determine they have the right person and determine guilt.
    Once convicted, immediate execution. Hanging works.
    Never seen a repeat offender.
    • Do you REALLY put NOVIOLENT petty (or even grand) theft in the same league

      with murder and violent theft on the high seas? The term "piracy" is an exaggeration when referring to theft of intellectual property. Yes, it is a crime, but a much less SERIOUS crime. Go watch the new movie "Captain Phillips" (LEGALLY, of course) and see how much difference there is between making a copy of that movie, and the events depicted in it (or the much worse events like it that happen daily).

      An ancient Greek dictator named Draco decreed that ANY crime, from the smallest theft of a loaf of bread to murder, should be punished by death. That is why his name is used to represent an overly harsh or brutal penalty.
  • Hilarious!

    This is so sad that it's hilarious. You mean they made 'ANOTHER' law to deter a criminal, AND it didn't work? Why does EVERYONE think the best way to stop a criminal is to just make ANOTHER law? Why do they think they're called criminals? Criminals could care less about a law! If they did, we wouldn't be worrying about Al Qaeda either, would we?

    It's laughable!
  • It's all about the money

    If we didn't have such a greedy bunch of hounds in the entertainment and content distribution area this wouldn't be a problem. They would kill this whole thing by pricing their product at a reasonable level given that they can distribute it digitally at almost no cost. But given who controls the entertainment industry nowadays that won't change, especially given that particular group's extraordinary pull on government at all levels. In the meantime, pirates rule.
  • Many years ago, before the technology became feasible,

    an article in the IEEE Journal proposed cars with "smart" controls to curb speeding, which would receive speed limit signals from roadside transmitters and cause an unpleasant vibration or buzzing continuously when the speed limit was exceeded. Their reasoning was based on psychological research showing that a MILD BUT CERTAIN AND IMMEDIATE consequence worked better in deterring unwanted behavior than a SEVERE BUT UNLIKELY AND DELAYED penalty, such as (MAYBE) getting stopped, (MAYBE) getting a ticket, and ONLY if so, (EVENTUALLY) paying a fine or losing one's license.

    The only reason they did not propose a car that COULD NOT exceed the speed limit was that sometimes, such as passing or avoiding an accident, a driver MUST exceed the limit for a few seconds. But the loud buzzing and/or vibrating meant that the driver would slow down as quickly as possible to avoid it.

    The writers never had the chance to try this in the real world, but today's cars (and GPS units, which include a "mostly" accurate speed limit map in their chips), provide SOME of that feedback, such as displaying the speed in red. It would be interesting to see whether speeding tickets are less frequent while using a GPS.

    The relevance to file stealing is obvious: making it unpleasant by flashing warning messages or throttling speed on ILLEGAL file transfers may be a better way than punishing a randomly selected subset who get CAUGHT with fines or worse.
  • re: Many years ago, before the technology became feasible,

    > flashing warning messages or throttling speed on ILLEGAL file transfers

    How do you know which packets are which?
    none none