Global Pirate Site Traffic Drops to New Low After COVID-19 Peak
When governments began to implement lockdown measures to hamper the spread of COVID-19, hundreds of millions of people were asked to stay at home. This resulted in a piracy peak. While some thought that this increase could be permanent, global traffic to pirate sites has already dropped and is now at a new low.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread across the globe this year, there were noticeable changes in Internet traffic patterns.
Internet usage went up overall, with YouTube being the big winner. However, pirate sites noticed a significant boost in visitor numbers as well.
This was illustrated early March in the most affected regions, a trend we could later see elsewhere too, coinciding with lockdown measures. This was subsequently backed up by a report from piracy tracking company MUSO which found measures traffic to pirate sites increased by over 50% locally.
Today, COVID-19 still keeps a tight grip on society in many countries. But there are also positive signs. In many regions the situation is starting to improve and, as a result, lockdown measures are being loosened, with people picking up life as usual.
If we look at the global visitor counts of pirate sites, this change is also noticeable. The graph below, based on data from MUSO, shows that visitor numbers started to drop again in May and are now lower than they were before the pandemic started.
Global Visits to Pirate Sites January 1 – May 31, 2020
The graph below includes all types of pirate sites and all countries, so it doesn’t mean that the effects are the same everywhere. In some countries, the peaks and subsequent drops were more pronounced than elsewhere, but the overall downward trend is obvious.
The type of pirate site makes a difference too. For example, the Coronavirus peak is most visible for sites that offer pirated films. This may be in part due to the fact that movie theaters closed in a lot of countries.
Global Visits to Film Pirate Sites January 1 – May 31, 2020
On Sunday March 1st, film pirate sites received roughly 60 million visits. This went up to 86 million on the second Sunday of April and dropped down to 46 million during the last Sunday in May.
Music piracy sites, on the other hand, were less affected by the pandemic it seems. Instead, the four-month trend shows pretty much a gradual decline.
Global Visits to Music Pirate Sites January 1 – May 31, 2020
While there are individual differences between countries the peak is clearly over. In fact, the number of pirate site visits is now at a new low point, which is roughly a 25% drop compared to the start of the year.
As mentioned before, the pandemic isn’t over yet, so we should caution that traffic patterns may also change again. That said, these broad and global changes suggest that the influx of new visitors to pirate sites is not going to be permanent.
ISP Ordered to Hand Over Pirates’ Details After Cracked Software ‘Phoned Home’
Alleged pirates who installed cracked copies of expensive Siemens CAD tools on their computers are facing potentially huge settlement demands after the software "phoned home" informing the company of the illicit use. The Australian Federal Court has ordered ISP Telstra to hand over the personal details of the suspected infringers.
Reports of movie companies tracking down alleged pirates in order to extract cash settlements are commonplace today.
After IP addresses are monitored in BitTorrent swarms, companies regularly obtain court orders requiring ISPs to hand over the personal details of alleged infringers, to whom they send correspondence threatening a lawsuit, unless they pay up of course.
On first view, a case in Australia seems to follow a similar pattern but the details reveal a more interesting set of circumstances.
In an application filed at the Federal Court in Australia, Siemens Industry Software Inc asked the Court to compel local ISP Telstra to reveal the identities and personal details of “20 potential infringing users” who used “cracked” versions of its software.
However, instead of tracking these alleged pirates in BitTorrent swarms, Siemens obtained evidence of their infringement directly from their computers.
Expensive Software With the Ability to “Phone Home”
The software in question, NX and Solid Edge, are extremely expensive CAD packages that come in individually licensed modules carrying price tags of up to AUS$60,000 (US$41,200) each, with bundles topping out at more than AUS$337,000 (US$231,000) according to Siemens’ application. What’s special in this case is that both pieces of software are able to “phone home”, providing the developer with evidence of infringement.
“In order to prevent and detect copyright infringement Siemens has developed and uses an ‘automatic reporting function’ or ARF, which it has embedded in each of the asserted software products. It cannot be removed or ‘switched off’ from the asserted software,” wrote Justice Burley in his order handed down last Friday.
The ARF is able to identify the specific computer on which unlicensed copies of software are used, information that is then transmitted back to Siemens when the computer running the software is connected to the Internet.
Siemens is on the lookout for “cracked” versions with their protection removed, examples of which can be found on The Pirate Bay, among other sites.
“The primary method of copyright infringement about which Siemens is concerned is where the alleged infringer uses versions of the asserted software that have been ‘cracked’ or tampered with by a person or (more likely) a company who is licensed to use some, but not all of the asserted software. The cracking allows the infringer to have full access to all of the modules of the asserted software without having paid to licence them,” Justice Burley added.
How the ARF works was detailed to the Court in a confidential affidavit but there are claims that it is sometimes able to identify the person who cracked the software, the email address of the entity using the software, plus an IP address, in this case those allocated to Telstra customers.
“Material Reproduction” of the Software in Breach of Copyright
Considering that the ARF is part of the software in question and was able to communicate back to Siemens, the Court was convinced that a “material reproduction” of the software had probably taken place without a license, in breach of copyright. As a result, Telstra is now required to hand over the details of the subscribers associated with the IP addresses identified by Siemens.
In his order, Justice Burley seeks to ensure that any information obtained by Siemens is used appropriately, referencing the ultimately-failed Dallas Buyers Club case of 2015. Interestingly and perhaps of comfort to those who may have downloaded Siemens’ software purely for home use, the company has assured the Court that it will not pursue people who have not used the software commercially.
TorrentFreak was able to obtain ‘NFO’ text files that were released by cracking/piracy groups associated with the Siemens products in the case detailed above. While they contain detailed instructions on how to get the software running without paying, they appear to be oblivious to the existence of the ARF.
The Federal Court Order, which includes the IP addresses targeted by Siemens and a copy of the letter it intends to send alleged infringers, can be obtained here (pdf)
Dog beauty contest
By popular demand we organize a dog beauty competition
Take a good photo of your favorite pet and name it.
Upload it at an image host and post the link.
Find out all the details and the prizes on this thread
We are waiting for the images here!
Deadline for entries: July 11, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.
If at least 5 of a variety are submitted, we will open a new topic
Submit a direct link to the image! (.jpg, .png ending)
Recommended image upload sites: https://kepkuldes.com/
Each application is worth 200 credit points