53 Billion Visits to “Rogue Sites” Proves Need for Web Filtering?

53 Billion Visits to “Rogue Sites” Proves Need for Web Filtering?

US Chamber of Commerce-funded claims RapidShare.com, Megavideo, and Megaupload, represent 21 billion of the more than 53 billion visits to “digital piracy” sites each per year, and that these traffic statistics prove they are profiting at the “expense” of the American creative industries and the govt needs to enact the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act (COICA) to fight the “problem.”

The US Chamber of Commerce has once again managed to not let the facts stand between it and a good story, taking a totally meaningless traffic study purporting 53 billion visits to so-called “digital piracy” sites each year, and saying the number “exposes the staggering scope” of illegal file-sharing.

In Traffic Report: Online Piracy and Counterfeiting, anti-fraud firm MarkMonitor said it “worked to identify a sample of rogue Internet sites that are responsible for trafficking counterfeit and pirated goods” in order to “illustrate the nature of this illicit ecosystem and, using publicly-available traffic information on the number of visits, determine its scope.”

Using “publicly-available Internet traffic data from Alexa,” MarkMonitor ranked the number of visits to each site and compiled a list of the worst offenders by category – digital piracy and counterfeit goods.

“In total, the 10 media brands in the study yielded 43 unique sites classified as ‘digital piracy,'” reads the report. “Traffic generated to these sites was over 146 million visits per day, representing more than 53 billion visits per year.”

It says the top-three “digital piracy” websites were RapidShare, Megavideo, and Megaupload, and that they collectively generate more than 21 billion visits per year, but what does this even mean?

Nobody knows for sure what number of visits to the sites were legal or illegal. , and the number varies further by country. Noncommercial file-sharing is legal in Spain, for example, but not in the US.

Furthermore, MarkMonitor’s classification for “digital piracy” oddly includes sites the like three aforementioned because they don’t prevent users from uploading copyrighted material.

“While some of these sites do offer takedown processes for pirated content, the action must be initiated by the content owner,” laments the report.

RapidShare explicitly says on its site that it “will immediately block such [copyright infringing] contents after being notified of them and delete these files after an inspection phase of 14 days.”

The policy is in compliance with the same sort of DMCA takedown notice guidelines followed by other sites in the US, and yet it’s still classified as a “digital piracy” website?

The same goes for Megaupload and Megavideo, each observing the same takedown notice guidelines.

Yet, the US Chamber of Commerce that funded the bogus study is trying to use it as an opportunity to indicate “rampant traffic of online counterfeiting and piracy.”

“Online counterfeiting and piracy is a destructive force that threatens consumers, hurts our businesses, and costs American jobs,” said Steve Tepp, senior director of internet counterfeiting and piracy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). “The MarkMonitor report exposes the staggering scope of this problem—rogue websites generating more than 53 billion hits annually. These websites are profiting off the hard work of America’s innovative and creative industries and the thousands of Americans that they employ.”

Notice the emphasis (his) on the number of hits. The number of hits is meaningless, especially if trying to pontificate about the alleged damage it’s doing to America’s creative industries.

“Whether it is the sale of counterfeit bags and fake pharmaceuticals or illegal distribution of movies, music, and software, online IP theft is theft—plain and simple,” added Tepp. “Rogue websites have no place in a legitimate online market. If left unchecked, these sites will continue to flourish at our expense and further hinder our economic growth.”

At our expense? Hinder our growth?

First of all, the Swiss German-owned RapidShare is not a “rogue website.” It has won case after case brought by copyright holders claiming the site was liable for copyright infringement committed by users.

Links to copyrighted files are not made public, noted the Düsseldorf Court of Appeals last May, and it’s the user themselves who make copyrighted material available to others in violation of copyright law. Hence, Rapidshare does not distribute copyrighted material, its “rogue users” that do.

Second of all, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, has already found that the effects of piracy and counterfeiting aren’t as simple as lost sales or profits, that each has a range of effects, some negative, others positive. It cited lost profits and tax revenue as negatives for businesses and govt, but that consumers benefited from increased access and lower costs.

Shutting down RapidShare, Megavideo, and Megaupload are hardly flourishing at the expense of America’s creative industries nor are they hindering its growth.

The whole purpose of the “report” seems to be another call to arms to enact the controversial controversial Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act (COICA).

“The MarkMonitor report underscores the urgency of enacting proactive policies to enhance enforcement tools to shut down these rogue websites,” adds Tepp.

The COICA would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” for cracking down on websites that illegally make copyrighted material available, including the ability to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities.”

The US Chamber of Commerce has called the ill-conceived proposal a “major step forward for protecting American jobs and consumers,” but continues to ignore the fact that it won’t stop people from visiting “rogue websites” any more that it will magically create new revenue for the American economy.

Stay tuned.

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