These Numbers May Change Your Attitude About Three-Strikes

SOPA could be the first battle in an anti-piracy World War III, but there may be softer solutions to this problem.

Just last week, prominent VC Fred Wilson outlined a plan that involved self-policing of bad actors by the tech community itself – without the bitter aftertaste of FBI raids and DNS takeovers.

And across the Atlantic, France just presented some interesting stats related to its controversial three-strikes enforcement campaign.  You know, the one that features warning letters and threats of access cutting, all under the banner of Hadopi.  This effort has a bad reputation, but it’s actually far softer than high-profile RIAA lawsuits that bankrupt file-sharers, some of which are still being prosecuted today.

Hadopi claims that file-sharing is ebbing, though certainly apps like Spotify and the native Deezer have something to do with that.  But a separate study out of Wellesley and Carnegie Mellon asserts that iTunes sales are now stronger in France relative to the rest of Europe.

But this may be the most interesting set of stats:

French population (2011): 65.8 million
Number of first-round letters: 822,000
Number of second-round letters: 68,000
Number of third-round letters: 165

So, the group that ultimately received a third letter is 0.02 percent of the group, and 0.00025 percent of the broader population.  And, these aren’t devastating, RIAA-style consequences: rather, the ‘bad actors’ will receive fines of 1,500 euros, a month of no internet access, or both (we’ve heard higher terms, but this is according to the latest information from the group).  That’s it.

It’s softer, and just maybe an effective strategy.

“We suggest that with regard to mitigation of sales displacement by piracy, a national anti-piracy policy combined with educational efforts is much more effective in the longer term than a small number of high-profile lawsuits.”

Wellesley/Carnegie Mellon researchers.

Written while listening to Tennis, Kaskade, and Tyga.

11 Responses

  1. Yves Villeneuve

    Definitely good numbers.

    For your information, internet users population, which includes the entire household, is 45,262,000 in France as of June 30, 2011.

  2. Just a guy

    Actually, no one so far has had it’s connection cut, or been fined. It only happens after receiving 3 warnings, then your case will be transmitted to the judge who will either give you a fine, or cut you net access for a month. And they’ve only started sending those cases to the judges lately.

    So actually, the effect of Hadopi worked without even resorting to the actual fines and connection cutting.

    Ps : i live in France.

    • paul

      The court processes themselves have not started, that’s a good point, and many will be resolved ahead of that. I’ll clarify.


  3. Andrew Kay

    Or, you know, it could be that almost everyone goes on pirating as normal, and the numbers are entirely explained by probability. Receiving a letter is an unlikely event; receiving two is much less likely and receiving three is vanishingly unlikely. If you roll a lot of dice, and send letters to the dice which roll 1s, you’ll find that 5 in 6 of them will not roll a 1 next time.

    Even if these numbers weren’t entirely explained by a Binomial distribution, a few dozen pirates starting to use TOR once they receive their second letter would certainly swing it.

    If you really want to know how effective HADOPI has been, you have to look at how much piracy is actually happening – unfortunately there isn’t much good data on this, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest piracy is down significantly in France since HADOPI.

    • Yves Villeneuve

      Assuming the following:

      45,000,000 internet users in France
      2.5 persons per household in France
      95% are pirates
      20% of the pirates would have bought the music if it wasn’t for easy piracy access (3,420,000 real pirate households)
      800,000 1st round letters (1 per real pirate household)
      24% of real pirate households have stopped pirating
      3 more years to mostly eradicate piracy with same piracy tracking resources

      Just a layman’s calculation.

  4. Person

    Does this mean people stopped illegally sharing copyrighted content? Or did they find away around the law? Both, but which has the higher number? VPN, Proxies…anyone?

    • Faza (TCM)

      Do bear in mind that the probably the majority of the pirating population isn’t all that tech-savvy. Pirating stuff is incredibly easy these days.

      It is possible to overcome almost any technical barrier, but there’s a point when it becomes too hard to be worth it. The whole point of piracy mitigation measures isn’t to make it impossible, but to increase its perceived cost so that the legal alternatives appear cheaper.

      We’ll still have to wait for long-term results, but the initial numbers look promising.

  5. TY

    Funny how the pro-piracy tech blogs went silent on this. If it doesn’t fit the agenda, it’s not news…!

  6. erlambert

    As the president of the Sacem (the authors’ collecting society) acknowledges it is not that rosy. The IFPI pointed out a study showing that since the beginning of the discussion of the Hadopi law, CD sales had increased by 13 M Euros; but only last year the Hadopi has cost the tax payer 11 M Euros, and the collecting societies an important amount to collect evidence of piracy to trarnsmit to the Hadopi…

    Meanwhile, a few (not enough) music services were born, and digital sales are going up. Wouldn’t this be a case of “Easy beats free” rather than the fear of the “gendarme”?

    And as pointed out, there is no solid baseline for the volume of piracy, only some declarative surveys that seem to indicate that fewer people intend to pirate, now that there is Hadopi…

  7. mdti


    20% of the pirates would have bought the music if it wasn’t for easy piracy access (3,420,000 real pirate households)


    and 40% if they were wealthier.

    The term pirate should be reserved to those who have the funding, but still steal… bankers, traders… i met a few of them.