Simultaneous blocks on a large number of piracy websites at a time is the way to change consumer behaviour and attitudes to copyright, Carnegie Mellon University researchers say.
Their research comes from a Carnegie initiative that “receives unrestricted (gift) funding from the Motion Picture Association of America”, according to a disclosure.
One of the three co-authors of the paper, Dr Brett Danaher, presented the findings at an event hosted by the Australian Screen Association.
“Measuring the causal effect of piracy website blocking is difficult,” Dr Danaher said.
“We studied three waves of court-ordered ISP site blocking in the UK using a dataset on actual Internet user behaviour.”
Dr Danaher’s research on website blocking started in 2012, and his first paper looked at the impact of a court-ordered block on the Pirate Bay website in the UK in April 2012.
He found that one instance of blocking “had only a limited impact on total piracy and no impact on paid legal streaming”.
However, when the UK blocked a further “19 major piracy websites in November 2013”, it had a more measurable impact on total piracy and the use of legal content services.
His latest research, presented in Australia this week, looks at the efficacy of a further set of site blocks initiated in the UK in November 2014. This round of blocking affected 53 websites.
The latest research paper claims this round of blocks led to a 16 percent overall reduction in piracy, a six percent increase in “visits to paid legal streaming sites like Netflix” and a 10 percent increase in “videos viewed on legal ad-supported streaming sites”.
“The evidence suggests that blocking large numbers of sites can still ‘move the dial’ in terms of consumer behaviour, but that there may be diminishing returns as remaining pirates may be more dispersed or else have lower willingness to pay for legal content,” the researchers said.
“Nonetheless, such blocks can serve to mitigate the possibility of a long-term return to the prior status quo.”
Australian Screen Association executive chairman Paul Muller said court-ordered blocks are just one tool in “a bigger strategy” that the association is pursuing to reduce internet piracy.
Muller is also driving for “better legislation”, stronger education and finding new avenues to make legal content “available and affordable”.
“There are plenty of ways to enjoy creative content through legal channels,” he said.
“Creating an environment where creative content is respected will benefit audiences, creators and businesses alike, stimulating innovation, driving the creative economy and developing local culture.”
However he noted that behavioural change towards piracy is not going to happen overnight.
“Changing people’s attitudes and behaviours is a long running process,” Muller said.
“Just like it took a long time for people to look differently at smoking, it is going to take people a long time to think differently about piracy.”
Foxtel and Village Roadshow are the first rights holders in Australia to test website blocking legislation.
They are seeking to use the legislation to block The Pirate Bay, SolarMovie, Torrentz, torrentHound and IsoHunt.
Though unresolved, rights holders and ISPs are presently arguing over who should pay for the blocks to be initiated.
Opponents say website blocking is an ineffective way of reducing piracy and that blocks are trivial to bypass.