Study: French three-strikes law did not deter or reduce piracy

In Graduated Response Policy and the Behavior of Digital Pirates: Evidence from the French Three-Strike (Hadopi) Law a team of business-school researchers from the University of Delaware and Université de Rennes I examine the impact of the French "three-strikes" rule on the behavior of downloaders. Under the three-strikes law, called "Hadopi," people accused of downloading would be sent a series of threatening letters, and culminating with disconnection from the Internet for a period of a year for everyone in the household. Hadopi is the entertainment industry's model for global legislation, and versions of it have been passed in the UK and New Zealand, and it has also been proposed for inclusion in the global Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty.

The researchers carefully surveyed French Internet users to discover what effect, if any, the Hadopi law had had on their behavior -- specifically, whether they were encouraged to download more from legitimate sites and pay more for music as a result of the threat of Hadopi. Their conclusion: [Hadopi] has not deterred individuals from engaging in digital piracy and that it did not reduce the intensity of illegal activity of those who did engage in piracy.

The study found some evidence that determined pirates who are more well-informed about the law may have shifted away from using P2P networks and towards other methods of illegally sharing content, like "direct downloading" sites and newsgroups.

The study is based on self-reported data, coming from a survey of 2,000 French Internet users. The respondents were asked about their views on and knowledge of the Hadopi law.

More than a third—37.6 percent—admitted to illegal downloading, with 22 percent using P2P networks and 30 percent using "alternative channels." About 16.4 percent of those who had engaged in the downloads received a warning from Hadopi, the government agency with the same name as the law it enforces.

Users who were more aware of the monitoring done by the Hadopi regime weren't any less likely to pirate copyrighted material, although there was a slight affect on the "intensity" of downloading. (The researchers asked whether users were likely to use illegal downloading techniques more than once a month or less than once a month.) The overall effect on file-sharing intensity was "negative but insignificant," researchers wrote.

Graduated Response Policy and the Behavior of Digital Pirates: Evidence from the French Three-Strike (Hadopi) Law [SSRN]

Study of French “three strikes” piracy law finds no deterrent effect [Joe Mullin/Ars Technica]

(Image: HADOPI, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from goodvibez's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. 2,000 doesn't seem to be a very large sample group.

    What happens if a user is "cut off"? Are they prevented from going to another provider? What happens if you move into an address that has been cut off?

  2. 2,000 is actually a pretty good-sized sample group. The accuracy of a poll increases not with the ratio of sample/population, but with the the size of the sample alone, at least until you get to significant percentages of the population... but asking 7 million people for a poll is a little bit out of the question.

    Using the number quoted in the paper from IFPI of "27% of internet users visited an unlicensed music site in any given month", a sample size of 2,000 gives a 95% margin of error of about 2% -- the true value has a 95% chance of being between 25% and 29%.

  3. The Central Limit Theorem is the official mathematical explanation, but consider for a moment dice. If you rolled one six-sided die, you could get numbers from 1 to 6; and they're all equally likely. Roll two and average them, and you're most likely to get 3.5 -- 1 and 6 are still plausible though. roll three and average, 1 and 6 each only show up 1/216 of the time, under 0.5%. Roll a thousand dice, you're likely to get around 3.5 still, though it's very unlikely to hit it exactly-- but if everyone in the world does this, maybe 15 people will get outside of the range 3.2 to 3.8, and they won't do that by much. Pick up a basic statistics test and look through the chapters about sampling distributions and hypothesis testing to get more information.

  4. Well, clearly, if what they're doing with HADOPI isn't working, they just need to do it harder, and it'll fix itself. That always works.

  5. RichP says:

    2000 is sometimes a good sampling size, but it often isn't, and pollsters often overstate the accuracy of their polls. In polls of this nature there are at least 4 major potential problems. The first is that the sample population is usually not fully randomized, and bias may be introduced by the selection method. The second is that those who respond are not necessarily random. The third is that people make errors in their responses, either deliberately or otherwise. The fourth is that some phenomena do not fit the normal distribution well, especially when it comes to uncommon events.

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