Closing Megaupload unlikely to even slow piracy down

If you really think shutting down Megaupload is going to even slow down online piracy, think again.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Megaupload may be closed, but online piracy will continue as usual.

Megaupload may be closed, but online piracy will continue as usual.

The U.S. Department of Justice working in conjunction with New Zealand's law enforcement agencies has taken down the popular file-storage and sharing site Megaupload. So, since Megaupload has been shut down, Internet piracy has gone down significantly, right? Right? Well, probably not, NPD market researcher Russ Crupnick said, "Only about 3 percent of the U.S. Internet audience relied on digital storage for legitimate purposes or piracy in the third quarter."

So where is the file piracy going on? The same place it always has been: over BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer software powered networks. According to Crupnick, "Peer-to-peer systems like BitTorrent, which have little central coordination and are harder to stop, still have about three times as much usage among consumers as digital lockers."

BitTorrent file sharing may account for far more than just 9% of Internet traffic. The latest research by Sandvine (PDF link), a broadband solution provider and analysis firm, shows that BitTorrent traffic took up 13.47% of all Internet traffic in the third quarter of 2011.

MPAA Senior Vice President Kevin Suh may claim that Lockers are "more user friendly." And, "I doubt there will be a wholesale shift" to torrents. But, the simple truth seems to be that torrents were, are now, and will continue to be the most popular way to share both legal and illegal files.

So, while Megaupload's closing has made headlines, it really couldn't have made that much difference to illegal file sharing. It has, however, lead to other digital locker sites, like FileSonic and FileServe shutting their virtual doors to file-sharing users.

Could Internet piracy be stopped? It seems it could only be done with the passage of laws like Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Which, as ZDNet columnist Stephen Chapman observes, "severely cripple (never mind completely obliterate) online piracy [but] would come at the cost of the current freedoms the Internet enjoys."

Despite the best efforts of the MPAA and the RIAA, the Internet spoke with one voice and SOPA and PIPA were shelved. For the time being at least the media companies have been stymied in their attempts to strangle the Internet in an attempt to block piracy. But, there will be further attempts to censor the Internet with an iron hand in the name of preserving copyright.

As always, I think the RIAA, MPAA, and friends would be better served by stopping their hysterical talk about how piracy is killing their businesses and work on changing their 20th business models based on physical objects-DVDs and CDs-to the 21st century when any and all content will always be just a download away no matter how much they may wish it wasn't so.

Pirate image by fuzzcat, CC 2.0.

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