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New research says MegaUpload shutdown was effective

By | Published on Monday 11 March 2013


While there is always research out there to show that anti-piracy measures either result in a decrease in the number of people accessing illegal content sources or, on the other hand, have no major impact at all (or, indeed, result in an increase in users for piracy services due to the publicity), the latest study reckons that one of the highest profile piracy attacks, last year’s shutdown of MegaUpload, had positive results for the entertainment industry.

A study by American academics at Wellesley College and another CMU, Carnegie Mellon University, considered increases in digital revenues for two Hollywood film studios in early 2012 in various different countries, and compared those increases with how prevalent the often controversial MegaUpload had been in each of those markets. The conclusion was that where MegaUpload usage was highest, digital revenues rose most dramatically for the two film companies after the file-transfer platform was shut down.

According to Torrentfreak, the researchers wrote: “Our analysis across twelve countries suggests that, in the eighteen weeks following the shutdown, digital revenues for these two studio’s movies were 6-10% higher than they would have been if not for the shutdown. Thus our findings show that the closing of a major online piracy site can increase digital media sales, and by extension we provide evidence that internet movie piracy displaces digital film sales”.

MegaUpload, of course, was accused of providing free access to vast quantities of unlicensed music and movie files, with the Mega company and its owners accused of illegally profiting from that piracy. There have been mixed reports on the actual effect of the shutdown of Mega – which has proven as controversial as the service itself – with some reckoning that users of the defunct content platform would simply have switched to other unlicensed music and movie services. But the Wellesley/CMU research suggests that at least some ex-Mega customers switched to licensed online content services, initially at least.

What would be interesting to know is – assuming the new research is right – did those who switched to legit operations stay with them once the drama surrounding the Mega shutdown (and initial expectations that further radical clamp downs would follow) faded away? And if not, is that because more regular Mega-style action needs to be taken, or because the film industry is yet to offer decent legit digital services (it being someway behind music in that domain).

Meanwhile, of course, the legal fallout of the Mega shutdown continues.