Collateral Damage Not Russian Site-Blocking's Only Failure: Pirate Video Market Has Doubled As Well

from the fail-and-fail-and-fail dept

Over the summer, we discussed how laughably bad Russia’s efforts at blocking so-called “piracy sites” has been. In the course of four years of attempting to stamp out copyright infringement in the country, the Russian government managed to block 4,000 sites it intended to target as piracy sites, and 41,000 sites it had not intended to target that were caught up as collateral damage. Those are the kind of numbers that would make a cluster bomb blush.

Even so, you might have imagined that this heavy-handed iron-fist routine must surely have had some reduction effect on the rate of piracy in Russia. The short answer to that is: nooooooope. Instead, over the course of the past few years, the market for pirated video content in Russia has doubled.

According to new research published by Group-IB and reported by Izvestia, Internet pirates have been adapting to their new reality, finding new and stable ways of doing business while growing their turnover.

In fact, according to the ‘Economics of Pirate Sites Report 2016’, they’ve been so successful that the market for Internet pirate video more than doubled in value during 2016, reaching a peak of 3.3 billion rubles ($57.2m) versus just 1.5 billion rubles ($26m) in 2015. Overall Internet piracy in 2016 was valued at a billion rubles more ($74.5m), Group-IB notes.

So what’s going on here? Well, the Russian government is learning the invaluable lesson that the internet is built to route around this kind of censorship. That old adage aside, what’s actually occurring is the start of an arms-race between website operators in Russia and the government agencies dedicated to stopping them. And the government is losing. Badly.

Overall, it’s estimated that the average pirate video site makes around $156,000 per year via advertising, subscriptions, or via voluntary donations. They’re creative with their money channels too.

According to Maxim Ryabyko, Director General of Association for the Protection of Copyright on the Internet (AZAPO), sites use middle-men for dealing with both advertisers and payment processors, which enables operators to remain anonymous.

This sort of shell game being employed by possibly truly pirate-y websites is the same one played by all kinds of websites looking to survive attempts at censorship. Where we might decry a site doing this to offer up video content that infringes copyright, we would applaud its use if the site were advocating for free speech, fair and open elections, etc. In other words, it’s the censorship that is bad, not necessarily the actions of those routing around it.

And, more to the point, it doesn’t work. In the face of these damning numbers, the Russian government has two options: give up or censor even harder. The latter will, naturally, result in even more of the collateral damage that has already been inflicted. Still, it seems the more likely scenario.

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Comments on “Collateral Damage Not Russian Site-Blocking's Only Failure: Pirate Video Market Has Doubled As Well”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“And, more to the point, it doesn’t work. In the face of these damning numbers, the Russian government has two options: give up or censor even harder. The latter will, naturally, result in even more of the collateral damage that has already been inflicted. Still, it seems the more likely scenario.”

And the copyright brigade will no doubt insist on more censoring and shutdown of sites to eliminate the piracy and to hell with any site that gets censored or shutdown by collateral damage in mistake until the collateral damaged site is one that belongs to the copyright brigade and then the copyright brigade will be the ones to come out screaming and shouting that their sites are wrongly being targeted perhaps then will something be done about it but then i very much doubt it.

Anonymous Coward says:

"the average pirate video site makes around $156,000 per year"

In just this one piece you actually expose three LIES:

1) Techdirt claims there’s no money made by pirate sites. (To be fully accurate: USED TO; been little on piracy of late.)

2) Way back YOU stated personal support for copyright, yet here you cheer piracy.

3) Techdirt too “supports copyright”, and doesn’t support pirates.

Old lies are being forgot by Techdirt, besides that “hate-Russia” propaganda likely took precedence here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "the average pirate video site makes around $156,000 per year"

From what I understand, there was a change in perspective long ago. That being said, the ideals that were once held may not be held anymore.

Or do you not believe people are subject to change?

On a side note: TechDirt is not one person, it has writers other than Mike and Karl. So why hold past comments over everyone’s head, even if they weren’t the one to write them?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: "the average pirate video site makes around $156,000 per year"

Reporting on the existence of piracy or the misguided attempts to fight it, is not the same as supporting or cheering it.

Likewise, allowing you to post your opinions here is not support or cheering for, well, accurate descriptions of them that would nonetheless get this post flagged as abusive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: With this "collateral damage" dodge, you're simply not blaming pirates.

I think I figured it out. You bought a zune and put all your money into songs for it and are still heartbroken that “plays for sure” didn’t and this is you lashing out at the world. It’s that or you’re just a sad, pathetic, obsessed, asshole.

McGyver (profile) says:

Not the greatest comparison… Not to say its not on the mark about the mechanics, but the main problem with the equation is the Russian government probably knows who all the biggest pirates are and as long as they pay their dues, the Russians will let them continue doing what they do… They have no interest in stoping them.
I’d bet piracy increased because the competition decreased… That and do you really think Russian has a vested interest in preventing piracy of non-Russian anything…
Maybe they frown on pirating Russian stuff, (the minority of what is pirated) but I’m sure they are really “concerned” about anything western, never mind American.
Yeah, they’ll lock up the small players and anyone standing too close, but the big dogs run free…
As long as the government makes a lot of noise and it looks like they are doing their job, that’s all that matters… “Look citizens we are fighting crime”… Well, crime that doesn’t pay us to look the other way.
The Russian government is so in league with organized crime, it’s like another branch of their government… Who do you think provides most of the thugs that beat up protester or threaten reporters.
So yeah, heavy handed attempts usually fail and end up doing more harm then good… But when the attempt was not really intended to stop the real culprits, was it an attempt at all?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Nuance: It's a thing

Criticizing abuse of the patent system and pointing out where it’s flawed and needs fixing does not make one ‘anti-patent’.

Likewise criticizing abuse of the copyright system and pointing out where it’s flawed and needs fixing does not make one ‘anti-copyright’.

If I see someone trying to put out a fire by going back and forth between a bucket with no bottom, and a bucket that has a bottom but that’s filled with gasoline and point out that they are bouncing between ‘not doing anything’ and ‘making the situation worse’, that would not make me ‘pro-arson’.

Seriously, could people at least come up with some original strawman to beat up, rather than just repeating the tired old ‘being critical of X means you’re anti-X’? ‘You’re critical of X, therefore someone must be paying you to hold that position’ doesn’t count as ‘original’ either.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Is this a Russian sponsored site?

Well, this makes a change from morons screaming about how everything’s paid for by Google, I suppose.

Now, did you want to try and address any of the concerns raised in the article, or the actual opinions expressed by the writers, or is the mention of Russia plus an unwillingness to bow down blindly to the demands of corporations enough for you dismiss any valid opinion?

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