Why numbers don't mean much – file sharing in Sweden

Presentation is everything. Shame that the truth may interupt an otherwise nice story. The Guardian was not alone among international media commenting on the implementation of IPRED (Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights) in Sweden. The article entitled Swedish internet use plummets after filesharing curb introduced began:

Internet traffic in Sweden – previously a hotbed of illicit filesharing – has fallen dramatically following the introduction of a law banning online piracy.

Lets begin with some of the obvious errors. The “hotbed of illicit filesharing” is a strange thing to call Sweden. We have a high Internet/broadband penetration and the Pirate Bay was launched and maintained by Swedes but there is no way that a county with 9 million inhabitants could be at the top of the file sharing list?

The fact that TPB was launched in Sweden does not mean that its users are Swedish or in Sweden – this is basic stuff – so did the writer want to increase the sensationalism in the article or doesn’t he understand how the Internet works? Check out this map of TPB users around the world.

TPB Tracker Geo Statistics
The statistics is now based on unique users connected per minute! Should provide alot more accurate data.
Keep in mind that a torrent client usually only connects to the tracker once every 15-20 minutes.

The next problem is that the measurements of the 30-50% drop in traffic (depending upon who you read) seems to be that the measurements where taken from a much too small sample and the drop mirrors a similar drop on the measured servers occurring at the same time last year (Sources in Swedish here).

Yes, there are file sharers in Sweden and yes one of the most popular torrent trackers was founded in Sweden. But the files are uploaded and downloaded from all locations across the world and a large dip in traffic may mean a number of things. Having said that there is no doubt that a number of users turned of their file sharing when IPRED entered into force – but only to begin searching for anonymity tools. It is extremely likely that the users who stopped file sharing will return since there is still no viable legal alternative.

The trial of the decade! Or maybe a non-event?

Tomorrow the long awaited file sharing/internet piracy trial will begin. The Times Online called it the Internet piracy trial of the decade. It’s the Pirate Bay website (or rather four men behind the site) that go on trial for enabling millions of internet users to make illegal downloads of music, movies, games and software. The courts will look into subjects like

– what is a link

– what is a search engine

– aiding criminal offences

Most of the stuff is interesting from a legal-technical point of view since the outcome will hardly have any effect on file sharing on the Internet. The most probably outcome will be a court “victory” for the copyright industry and an appeal to the next level. The case will move towards the inevitable Supreme Court trial. The whole affair should be very interesting and yet, in practical terms, not relevant the total amount of file sharing online. User may have to switch to another provider or service but most probably the Pirate Bay will remain online in some form.

The story so far on ars technica, Times Online, Guardian. Also take a look at the Pirate Bays own dedicated trial site The Spectrial.

To understand how big this is take a look at the torrent user statistics on a map in real time here. Killing a website like the Pirate Bay will not stop this.