Study finds Internet piracy resilient despite MegaUpload takedown

MegaUpload all the piracy

Traditional entertainment corporations and the U.S. government rejoiced as the Internet felt the hard-handed impact of MegaUpload’s take-down. But a study released by DeepField Networks, titled “File Sharing in the Post MegaUpload Era,” has offered compelling data proving that the effect on file sharing was only temporary, and that the celebration among copyright advocates was entirely premature.

MegaUpload formerly sat at the throne among file-sharing services and accounted for 30 percent to 40 percent of all file-sharing-related traffic at any given time. To give some idea of its massive scale, total Internet traffic dropped between 2 percent and 3 percent during the hour following the MegaUpload raid on January 18.

The drastic decline is attributed to DeepField’s revelation that that merely six file-sharing service providers cater to the majority (80 percent) of total file-sharing traffic.

MegaUpload file sharing Jan 18 2012

Megavideo accounted for 34.1 percent of total file sharing traffic on Jan. 18 before the raid. The second-largest file-sharing service, Filesonic (which has shuttered its file sharing functionalities following the raid), once accounted for a hefty 19.1-percent market share.

Filesharing after MegaUpload shut down Jan 19 2012

But as DeepField’s data from Jan. 19 shows, traffic post-raid did not permanently hamper MegaUpload users. Rather, users redirected their loyalty to other existing services, thereby crowning Putlocker the new king.

The inconvenience as a user that comes out of Megavideo’s shut down, due in part to a heavy dependence on the American server provider Carpathia Hosting, is rather minor. Now most file-sharing services’ servers are relegated to more expensive hosting, and users may experience slightly slower download speeds, provided that they’re downloading across continents. The greater issue arose when the U.S. government decided to deny temporary access to MegaUpload users’ files, both legitimate and pirated.

With this in mind, it’s possible that “too big, too quickly,” contributed to MegaUpload’s downfall. MegaUpload’s subscription and advertising model supported a lavish lifestyle for CEO Kim Dotcom and other execs. Among the seized property from MegaUpload executives were a 2008 Rolls-Royce, 2010 Maserati, 1989 Lamborghini and 14 Mercedes-Benz vehicles, sporting vanity license plates that included, “CEO,” “HACKER,” “GOOD,” and “GUILTY.”

Despite the lucrative market for pirated content, and unfounded claims of piracy’s purported negative effects on the entertainment industry’s bottom line, copyright advocates have entirely underestimated the resiliency of users, and the gusto with which they bounced back.

For example, The Pirate Bay has moved toward magnet links, which allow users to access torrents without having to download a file. One Pirate Bay user scraped the service’s 1,643,194 torrents into a mere uncompressed 164MB. In the event that The Pirate Bay disappears off of the face of the Internet, you could conceivably stash away a complete index of its pirated offerings on a thumb drive.

At the end of the day, MegaUpload is just one large head on the mythical Hydra beast of file-sharing networks. Chop one head off and two more regenerate to replace the fresh stump. Has the MegaUpload takedown tackled piracy? It has. Was it effective? Not really. The hive mind that is the Internet will get what it wants. DeepField’s finding is just one example of why resisting is futile and unproductive, short of the Great Firewall. But even then, you can always bypass it using a virtual private network.