Wednesday, May 29, 2024
IPTV Legal Provider Reviews, IPTV Directory, IPTV Legal Information

Pirate Site Blocking Agency Reveals How and Why Pirates Circumvent Blocking

By , in ARCOM DNS France Piracy Research Site Blocking VPN , at May 3, 2024

lockpick-sThis year, major rightsholders are hoping that data from similar programs overseas will persuade Congress that site-blocking is a measured and reasonable response to surging worldwide piracy rates.

The usual entrenched positions on whether site blocking is, or indeed is not, a type of censorship in conflict with free speech, will be heard once again. Yet on more neutral territory lies a debate that receives relatively little attention.

Proponents of site blocking insist that it’s an essential front line response to piracy and data shows that it really does work. The other side of the coin shows that since the introduction of site-blocking, with a few dozen ‘notorious’ sites blocked in a handful of mainly European countries, when taken as a whole, piracy rates have only increased.

That’s despite some nations’ blocklists easily exceeding 10,000 entries, a perpetual need to continuously add more domains and IP addresses, and more quietly behind the scenes, demands for more aggressive blocking measures, to counter constant circumvention. Even recently, the incredible number of domains blocked worldwide has been held up as a measure of success; there’s a sensible argument that the size of the list indicates quite the opposite.

Site-Blocking Circumvention and Motivation

On January 1, 2022, France launched Arcom, the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority. Among other responsibilities, Arcom is the national anti-piracy agency that oversees site-blocking and other mitigation measures. It also carries out research hoping to better understand the piracy landscape while educating the masses yet to kick the piracy habit.

This week Arcom published the results of a study titled ‘Use of Internet Security Tools For the Purpose of Illicit Access to Digital Goods‘. The study notes that since the launch of Arcom it’s been possible to block pirate sites much more quickly; between January and November 2022, around 800 sites were blocked by ISPs.

In the last six months, Arcom says that 40% of pirate stream consumers have been “personally confronted with a site blockage” while 27% heard from close acquaintances that they had experienced that too.

Through the study, Arcom hopes to better understand how and why, a representative sample of French internet users aged 15 and over, circumvent blocking.

The Majority Are Savvy Users

The study found that just under a third of respondents (31%) categorize themselves as more likely to be the last among their peers to use the latest technology. Almost four in ten (39%) consider themselves to be on par with others, while 30% place themselves on the cutting edge, eager to adopt and test new technology before most other people.

Overall, Arcom believes that almost a quarter (24%) of French users pirated at least one item of content illegally during the last year. However, awareness of technologies that are used to circumvent site-blocking goes far beyond, even if some users don’t yet fully understand them.

For example, the study found that 23% of internet users know that changing DNS settings is a way to circumvent pirate site blocking. Around 27% have heard of people changing DNS settings but don’t currently know what that means. Overall, 49% of internet users are aware of DNS modification, even if around half aren’t yet aware of its potential.

Arcom report on site-blocking circumvention tools. (Original in French, translated by TF)arcom-dns-vpn-1

The data on VPNs is remarkable. More than eight in ten (81%) French internet users have heard of VPNs, with just under a third (32%) still unsure of what VPNs are for.

In contrast, 49% of internet users have heard of VPNs and their functionality, and 42% know from experience.

Arcom report on site-blocking circumvention tools. (Original in French, translated by TF)arcom-dns-vpn-1

Over the last 12 months, 29% of French internet users deployed a VPN and 20% modified their DNS settings. When the groups are combined (some VPN users also modified their DNS settings and vice versa), over a third (35%) of French internet users used one or both in the last year.

Motivations and Illegal Consumption

Since the 35% overall usage figure above exceeds the 24% of French citizens said to have pirated content in the last year, there must be other motivations to use VPNs and modify DNS settings. Among users exclusively using VPNs, 57% said their use involved ‘illicit practices’ with 46% citing protection from perceived online risks. For those who cited exclusive use of DNS modifications, the figures were lower at 46% and 35% respectively.

Among VPN or DNS users as a whole, 66% said their use involved ‘illicit practices’ with 56% citing protection from perceived online risks.

Overall, 46% of VPN users admitted to being consumers of illicit content while 54% of those who changed DNS parameters admitted the same. Among VPN users, 69% consider themselves as on par or ahead of most internet users when it comes to adopting, testing or using new technologies, a figure that falls to 54% for those who only modify their DNS records.

Interestingly, reasons for illegal content consumption among VPN and DNS-modified users differ slightly from general consumers of illicit content.

“Users of alternative VPNs or DNS declaring illegal practices justify them by citing problems of offers rather than costs (compared to all consumers engaging in illegal practices),” the study notes.

Over half (56%) of VPN users who activate their connection before a specific action cite anonymity. Close to half (46%) say the reason is to enable access to sites unavailable in France, while just 14% cite gaining access to illegal sites blocked by ISPs in France.

Piracy and Unblocking Pirate Sites Not a Priority

While VPN use is regularly painted as a piracy indicator, Arcom’s study shows that protection of privacy is the main motivator, followed by security against hacking attempts, accessing geo-blocked content, and communicating with loved ones abroad via secure messaging.

Arcom report on site-blocking circumvention tools. (Original in French, translated by TF)vpn-motivation

Reasons for using a VPN for piracy purposes have a lower priority, although when narrowed to use among pirates exclusively, the figures are higher for pirates as one would expect. Regardless, protection of privacy, enhanced security, and granting access to otherwise restricted legal content, remain the key motivators.

Regardless of Main Motivation, VPNs Unblock Without Prejudice

Arcom reports that “recent VPN converts are more motivated by the ability to bypass blocks.” With at least hundreds of sites blocked in France, and tens of thousands more blocked all around the world, that’s to be expected.

If those users are pleased with the VPN experience, in time they’ll simply forget that blocking even exists. After 15 years of site-blocking in dozens of countries, one has to wonder how prevalent that is.

While clearly anecdotal evidence, our experience of what is now an extraordinary volume of site-blocking, is that the chaos it used to cause has long since gone.

Email inquiries regarding site-blocking measures against site A and platform X were a regular occurrence up until around five years ago. When the most recent inquiry was received here is hard to say; in total, however, no more than a handful or two have been received in the last couple of thousand days.

There could be a number of reasons for that, but a lack of site-blocking isn’t one of them.

Arcom’s full report (French) can be found here (pdf)

Image credits: StockCake

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Facebook Comments Box