Sneakernet Piracy Under The Microscope: Home Taping Is Killing Stereotypes


Okay, let’s admit it. We all have our own ideas of what a movie pirate looks like. Maybe we think of him as a sun-depraved teenager, spending his nights scouring torrent sites. Or we remember the guy who tried to sell us bootleg DVDs downtown the other day. Maybe we believe in a connection between movie piracy and organized crime. Or maybe we just think of the guy we get to see in the mirror every morning.

Either way, it might be time to do away with these stereotypes and think of piracy as a much more pervasive practice. That’s one of the conclusions of a new report titled “Changing Attitudes & Behaviours in the ‘Non-Internet’ Digital World and their Implications for Intellectual Property” that was just released by the U.K.-based Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP). It focused on all the types of piracy that don’t have to do with downloading and file sharing, ranging from bootleg DVDs to shared hard drives. And it turns out that this kind of “sneakernet” piracy is at least as popular as P2P file sharing.

Much of the research available about copyright infringement has been conducted on behalf of organizations or companies with a stake in the debate: The entertainment industry regularly publishes data about economic losses due to file sharing, and companies selling solutions to enforce intellectual property rights have also been busy collecting data to show just how vast the problem is. SABIP doesn’t quite fit into this picture. It’s part of the U.K.’s Patent Office, and aims to help the government with independent research provided by outside consultants who seem to be mostly interested in doing more research. In other words: Don’t expect any easy answers from these guys.

Still, the 84-page study (PDF download) is an interesting read. It sums up various existing studies looking at offline piracy, both from industry and market research as well as academic backgrounds. Here are some of the key findings the authors decided to highlight: Between 9 and 16 percent of U.K. adults buy counterfeit DVDs, and an additional 23 percent join in on watching or simply borrow those disks. In the UK alone, 89.4 million movies and TV shows are distributed via counterfeit DVDs and various forms of home-copying per year. And much like BitTorrent, physical piracy is a gift that keeps on giving: Only 32 percent of DVDs burned at home are copies of original retail disks. Most people just duplicate what someone else copied for them.

The study also highlights some interesting demographic facts about offline piracy: “Offline consumers of counterfeit discs are older, with dependent(s), more likely to belong to lower socio-economic groups –- as compared with the predominantly young, well educated, technologically-savvy demographic who infringe copyright online.” Another reason that drives people to physical disc piracy are babies and toddlers that make it impossible to catch current releases on the big screen. Maybe the key to fight piracy would be better babysitters?

Speaking of fighting piracy: The study finds that there is little rights holders and authorities can do to stop this type of file sharing. Copyright doesn’t seem to be on people’s minds when they buy pirated DVDs or swap movies from hard drive to hard drive. Only 31 percent of people who abstain from offline piracy quote legal reasons as the deciding factor to do so, and most people who do go for a fake copy cite price and availability as the primary reason.

However, that’s not really reflected in most of the research about the subject. Many studies still treat piracy as a willful act. Some consumers decide to break the law, while others stay clean. Truth is, most people don’t even bother thinking about this distinction. “In reality, … legality is just one of a multitude of factors that influence consumption decisions,” the study finds. Add to that what the study calls “confusing market signals,” like the fact that movies get marketed way before they’re available for sale on DVDs, and that DRM seems to punish the people who decide to buy with an added layer of inconvenience, and you got yourself a situation in which offline piracy just seems to be the most logical choice for many consumers.

The authors of the study clearly warn that there hasn’t been enough research done to completely explain why and how people use pirated media. That’s a pity, especially since stricter laws against online file sharing seem to ignore offline trading. From the study: “There is some evidence to suggest that illegal consumers would refrain from downloading if ISPs’ role as a ‘capable guardian’ were to increase, but this is not conclusive, and it may simply shift illegal consumption to the of?ine arena, where the law is even less enforceable.” In other words: Three strikes against P2P piracy could make sneakernet piracy even more popular.

Related GigaOM Pro Research:



We have all ways used sneaker net.
long before it was practical to download even a mp3.
people were trading audio tapes, video tapes.
Now with the ability to copy and trade anything.
you really don’t need the internet.
Blank dvd’s and cd blanks are cheap.
4 gig thumb drives are like $5.00’s just the right size for music,
Toss one to a friend and have them fill it with the latest stuff they have. Hard drives are super cheap too. I often just buy a 500gig hd. fill it with stuff I want to trade with a friend and mail it to them. He doesn’t even have broadband. Just dial up. 56k..
Try downloading anything over that.
New hard drive are so tuff they will survive being mailed with little padding.. I no longer have to ship them in a Pelican case.

So no, people like to share what they have with others.
I would rather share it than throw it away.


Netflix enabling the Sneakernet since 2000.

If you have a Netflix subscription its very easy to rip a DVD to your hard drive and send the DVD back to Netflix the next day you can also convert it to another format in a few hours or less .

You dont even need to burn a disk just stream the video from your hard disk to your devices.I use a old modded Xbox in the bedroom to store most of my compressed movies for streaming and any ones I want to keep on Disk I just burn .

Comments are closed.