Russia's telecoms watchdog says that the country's top 15 most popular torrent sites will be permanently blocked in 2016.
The news follows a national survey carried out last week which revealed that four out of ten torrent users use the protocol to avoid paying, while almost as many do so for other reasons, including content availability.
Site blocking has been one of the big anti-piracy themes of 2015, with hundreds of sites blocked by ISPs all around the world.
Given its generally poor record for cracking down on piracy, it’s perhaps somewhat of a surprise that Russia is now one of the front-runners when it comes to piracy blocking.
In September it was revealed that in some form or another, Russia had restricted access to around 280 ‘pirate’ sites since the introduction of a new law in 2013.
However, in an effort to move away from the cat and mouse game often played by unauthorized sites, Russian telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor has now thrown its weight behind a scheme to permanently block sites that persistently make available copyrighted content without permission.
RUTracker found itself sucked into that mechanism a couple of months ago, despite offering to take drastic action to avoid it. Now it appears that other leading sites are likely to fall foul of the legislation in the months to come.
According to predictions just made by Roscomnadzor, during 2016 rights holders will succeed in having the top 15 torrent sites permanently blocked. Of course, this kind of talk usually triggers talk of VPNs, proxies and other workarounds, but the watchdog says that the overwhelming majority of users won’t try to access the blocked sites.
“[The blocked sites’] traffic will be significantly reduced, because according to statistics 95% of people do not use tools to bypass locks,” the watchdog said in a statement on Twitter.
While the percentage of block evaders cited by Roscomnadzor is up for debate, the watchdog has just carried out a public survey which aims to provide a clearer picture on why Internet users turn to torrents. After conducting the survey via Twitter, Roscomnadzor published the results.
Marginally ahead with 37% of the votes were users who said they used torrents because “I do not want to pay”.
In second place with 36% were users who say they use torrents for “other reasons”, with many respondents noting that the content they are looking for is unavailable through regular channels.
In third with 17% of the vote were people who use torrents since they don’t know where to buy the content they’re looking for legally. The remaining 10% reported not using torrents.
In a statement issued after the poll closed, Roscomnadzor said that content providers need to find the right mix of pricing and availability. However, even that may not do the trick.
“In the current economic climate it is necessary to find a balance in which the content will be available, and the price will match the quality,” the watchdog said. “However, many simply do not want to pay.”
That’s where site-blocking comes in but only time will tell whether Roscomnadzor’s prediction of 95% efficiency will play out in the long term.