Piracy Websites Attract 'Billions' of Visitors

Mike Halsey MVP
Jan 12, 2011
Updated • Nov 30, 2012

A study by anti-fraud company MarkMonitor has monitored 43 file-sharing websites and found that between them they had 53 billion visits in the last year, according to a report by the BBC.

The top three websites were RapidShare.com, Megavideo.com and Megaupload.com which between them generated more than 21 billion visits.

The study was commissioned by the US Chamber of Commerce to identify trends and rogue websites.  Mark Mulligan of research firm Forrester was cautious though, saying that the number of visits did not  necessarily equate to the number of downloads.

RapidShare has come under fire from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) which blames the site of carrying huge volumes of pirates content.  The website is based in Switzerland though which has made it difficult for US companies to deal with.

The number of hits are very high indeed, but these figures must not be used in an alarmist way, which is what organisations such as the RIAA are bound to do.  If you look at the hits for most websites, the majority of those are for the front page only and people do not search any deeper.  This, I would imagine, will also be the case for  file sharing websites.  There will also be indexing taking place that could count as visits.

Thus the actual problem of file-sharing won't be anywhere near as bad as these figures suggest.  We can expect the music and movie industries to attempt to pass the full 53 billion figure off as a "good estimate" of how many files are shared every year.  We can thus expect more fallout from this research in the coming months.


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  1. skykid said on January 14, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Reading what RIAA states one would think that almost all music in the world comes from the US. Many people use the services of the sites mentioned in the article to share personal files – such as video recording of a celebrations etc.

  2. Jack said on January 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    There’s lies, damn lies and statistics… As David suggests, these figures don’t bear a moment’s close examination

    And if David is in denial, then I must plead guilty too. Though more likely it’s the RIAA who are in constant and increasingly desperate denial.

    Sites like Rapidshare do carry illegal material – they’re hosting sites and that’s inevitable. But not all the content is illegal, even if we accept the RIAA’s partisan definition of illegal. There’s no possible way the true figures could ever be known, and once they’re accepted as estimates they become suspect simply because of the source. Since files of any kind can be exchanged via any service that allows upload and download, it’s always going to be hard to control, unless you want to fully control the internet – an aim far closer to the RIAA’s heart, I suspect.

    The real problem is that the media industry wants to retain its old gravy-train habits with a new technology for which it’s been incapable so far of building an appropriate business model.

    I believe – absolutely – that an artist, whatever their media, is entitled to their reward, as is any person who works for a living. But I don’t believe an entire industry is entitled to become very rich just because someone writes a song. A lot of the old media distribution industry isn’t needed any longer – they’re going to have to live with that – better people than them have had to re-train because of new technology.

    What’s most significant to me though is that, like most internet users, I know exactly where to obtain illegal movies and music. That I don’t do so isn’t a moral decision – I decline because 99% of the output is pure rubbish and not worth the bandwidth, not to mention the serious risk of malware. I accept that constant piracy may affect the output and future availability of good performing art – but good performing art is already in decline because of low industry standards, especially in the cinema.

    The media industry might be better served by addressing the question of why so many people don’t want their products even when they’re offered free, let alone at the ludicrous prices we find on the high street.

  3. Sam.the.Man.I.am said on January 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    David, nothing Mr. Halsey has written here would indicate he has “fallen” for anything! Piracy and the illegal sharing of copyrighted material is rampant throughout the world. If you think otherwise, then you are in a major state of denial.

  4. David said on January 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

    This is the usual music/movie industry rubbish and you’ve fallen for it…shame on you! A good deal of the content on the above sites is not piracy related and we have no way to tell the percentages of legal v illegal content so the industry claims that all visitors are pirates are clearly garbage. They try the same with torrent statistics…hint…many of us get our OS via torrents and, likewise, other big FOSS software items. These sites and technologies do have a legitimate purpose too.

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