The Effect of Piracy Website Blocking on Consumer Behavior
36 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2015 Last revised: 9 Dec 2015
Date Written: November 2015
Understanding the relationship between copyright policy and consumer behavior is an increasingly important topic for participants in digital media markets. In this paper we seek to study how consumer behavior changes when Internet Service Providers are required to block access to major piracy websites. We do this in the context of two court-ordered events affecting consumers in the UK: The blocking order directed at The Pirate Bay in May 2012, and blocking orders directed at 19 major piracy sites in October and November 2013.
Our results show that blocking The Pirate Bay only caused a small reduction in total piracy — instead, consumers seemed to turn to other piracy sites or Virtual Private Networks that allowed them to circumvent the block. We thus observed no increase in usage of legal sites. In contrast, blocking 19 different major piracy sites caused a meaningful reduction in total piracy and subsequently led former users of the blocked sites to increase their usage of paid legal streaming sites such as Netflix by 12% on average. The lightest users of the blocked sites (and thus the users least affected by the blocks, other than the control group) increased their clicks on paid streaming sites by 3.5% while the heaviest users of the blocked sites increased their paid streaming clicks by 23.6%, strengthening the causal interpretation of the results. Our results suggest that website blocking requires persistent blocking of a number of piracy sites in order to effectively migrate pirates to legal channels, but also that the increased availability of legal digital services can make antipiracy efforts more effective.
Keywords: Piracy, regulation, digital distribution, motion picture industry, natural experiment
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