“When Putin first addressed the Russians — they downloaded a quarter of all torrents in the world in a day”

How the pandemic has hindered the fight against piracy

“When Putin first addressed the Russians — they downloaded a quarter of all torrents in the world in a day”
Photo: kremlin.ru

A year and a half after the adoption of the “anti-piracy memorandum” in Russia, copyright holders and Internet services achieved some success in the fight against piracy — more than 4 million links to pirate sites have been removed from search engines, and their total traffic has fallen by 40%. At the same time, the total self-isolation regime has brought these efforts to naught — as it turned out, immediately after the introduction of restrictive measures, users again rushed to pirated resources. Read more about the mixed success rate in the fight against pirated content in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Fight against piracy in figures

The “anti-piracy memorandum” was adopted on November 1, 2018 — it is an agreement between major Russian Internet companies (including Yandex, Mail.ru and others), as well as the largest copyright holders. As part of the memorandum, a special registry was created where copyright holders make links to pirated content, and Internet companies voluntarily delete it. The holder of the register was Roskomnadzor. It was expected that the memorandum would eventually become a law — but the draft of such law has not yet been submitted to the State Duma.

Earlier at the Russian Internet Forum, Andrey Byrdin, the director general of Internet Video association, summed up the results of the memorandum and the fight against piracy in general. He referred to this process as “reducing the availability of pirated content”, probably emphasising that it is not yet possible to combat piracy.

Andrey Byrdin, the director general of Internet Video association, summed up the results of the memorandum and the fight against piracy in general. Photo: fontanka.ru

In numbers, this fight looks successful — the popularity of pirate sites, in comparison with 2018, has significantly decreased, and of legal resources — has grown.

  • If in July-October 2018, pirate sites accounted for 440-480 million visits a month, by May 2020 this figure had fallen to 250-300 million — thus visits reduced by 40%. Over the same period, the number of visits to sites that distribute “legal” content increased by 16%, from 140 million to 167 million visits a month.
  • The number of unique visitors for the same periods fell even less — by 46%, from 130-140 million to 70 million. The number of unique visitors at legal sites increased by 30%, from 54 to 70 million a month.

"40 per cent is not a victory, but a very good result. I associate it in particular with the memorandum," said Byrdin.

He added that the number of sites with legal content in the study did not include YouTube because of a large amount of user content, as well as Kinopoisk online cinema — since the traffic of the latter is difficult to separate from the traffic to Kinopoisk's database itself.

Who has suffered and who won in the pandemic

According to these calculations, the peak content consumption (both pirated and legal) fell for some reason in May 2019 — such results Byrdin did not explain. But other forum participants asked a logical question: why was there no peak in April-May 2020 — there was self-isolation, everyone was surfing the Web?

Andrey Busargin, the director of the brand protection and intellectual property department of Group-IB, provided his data. According to him, April has become a real expanse for pirates in the matter of traffic.

“Then the traffic was super giant, more than 114 per cent increase in pirated traffic! The day when Putin made an address to our fellow citizens, the Russians have about a quarter of the downloaded torrent files in the world," said Busargin.

Later, the indicators of pirate sites continued to show records: a twofold increase in traffic compared to “pre-coronavirus” times was recorded in May, and in June this indicator began to fall. “Last year we celebrated the fall of the pirate traffic, there is going to be an increase this year," predicted Busargin.

“Last year we celebrated the fall of the pirate traffic, there is going to be an increase this year," predicted Busargin. Photo: facebook.com/GroupIB

However, there is a bright side to the situation. First, pirates, according to Busargin's forecasts, will earn less — the main advertisers in the face of bookmakers have left them, for whom the situation worsened in the pandemic.

Second, as noted by Boris Omelnitsky, the representative of Yandex, the majority of online cinemas also showed a multiple growth. “There were situational outbursts. Platforms provided free movie theatку trials. Many users who have used pirate websites have tried [to access legal services] and remained," he added.

Victory is still far away

In general, as part of the “anti-piracy memorandum”, as many as 4,2 million links to pirated content have been removed from search engines. However, the forum participants argued for the laurels of “the most anti-piracy participant in the memorandum” — Star Media film company stated that it threw in the register about a third, or 1,3 million links, later Group IB stated that it entered another 3 million. They agreed that some of the links were repetitive.

Irina Savchenko, the deputy head of Internet broadcasting of Channel One, said that with the adoption of the “anti-piracy memorandum” in 2019, the channel's website traffic increased by 30% — and this is against the background of strong 2018 traffic related to the World Cup. Besides, she said that using the registry of the memorandum is simply cheaper: “going to court is to reset all income from monetisation of Internet traffic”.

However, she noted that the memorandum does not solve all problems — for example, piracy of online broadcasts or the removal of the entire pirated domain, rather than specific links.

Boris Omelnitsky, the representative of Yandex, noted that the majority of online cinemas also showed a multiple growth. Photo: news.tut.by

Nikita Trynin, the representative of Star Media, added that no memorandum or law based on it can defeat piracy. They can only slowly win back positions.

“There are pirate mobile apps, there are Telegram channels, there are torrents. All this will not disappear from the appearance of a law. The law is needed, but little will change. Each step will give a couple of percent advantage — and at this rate we will reach the right ratio, to immunity to piracy.

By Alexander Artemyev