MegaUpload takedown didn't slow pirate downloads, just moved them offshore

Downloads to U.S. users coming across longer distances, more expensive links

The federal takedown of MegaUpload was a major win for copyright enforcement advocates and a major loss to the Internet.

Literally. The Internet lost between 2 percent and 3 percent of its total volume of traffic in just one hour following the Jan. 19 raid that shut down the world's largest file-sharing service, according to a new report from DeepField Networks called File Sharing in the Post MegaUpload Era.

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Before its staff were arrested and servers shut down, MegaUpload files accounted for between 30 percent and 40 percent of all the file downloads on the Internet.

That's not as much traffic as you'd think. According to network-management vendor Sandvine Networks Global Internet Phenomena report from October, 2011, real-time entertainment contributed far more traffic to the Intertubes than file sharing.

Real-time entertainment, which is mainly video and TV, not online gaming, made up 53.6 percent of all the traffic crossing the wired Internet in North America during 2011. Web browsing took up 16.6 percent and file-sharing came in third, at 14.3 percent according to Sandvine's numbers.

Right after the raid, Sandvine released an analysis of MegaUpload's traffic, showing it was responsible for .98 percent of all the traffic on all wired Internets in the U.S.

Sandvine predicted that, with MegaUpload shut down, users would switch to other, similar, sources, including Rapidshare, zShare, Hotfile and MediaFire.

That became tougher in the weeks since MegaUpload went down. Torrentfreak reports at least nine file sharers changed rules on the files they'll accept and several sites have shut down completely.

Uploadbox.com and X7.to shut down, according to ABCNews,

Filesonic and Fileserve banned third parties from downloading any file, to discourage anything but one-to-one exchanges. Uploaded.to banned anyone with a U.S. IP address from using the service in order to avoid infringing U.S. law. VideoBB and VideoZer ended programs similar to one under fire at MegaUpload, which rewarded members for uploading popular files, according to TorrentFreak.

So, did shutting down MegaUpload cut a big chunk out of the flow of illegal files as pro-SOPA advocates predicted?

No, but the distribution pattern has changed.

Jan. 18, the day of the raid, MegaUpload's MegaVideo was the biggest supplier of video online, with 34.1 percent of all traffic. Its closest competitor was Filesonic with 19.1 percent.

On Jan. 19, the day after MegaUpload went away and Filesonic swore off third-party downloads, Putlocker was the No. 1 source with 27.5 percent of all downloads. NovaMov and MediaFire follow, with less than half that market share.

Big deal? One vendor takes over from another?

Except, that pattern is "staggeringly less efficient" than file sharing was with MegaUpload in place.

Deepfield Networks analyzed the change by looking at the six companies that provide the storage facilities for 80 percent of all the file-sharing traffic on the 'net. (There are hundreds of search-and-index sites for both legal and illegal downloads, but most of the files themselves are housed on disk in data centers run by six major co-location and hosting service companies.

With the shift toward Putlocker, NovaMov and MediaFire, far more of those files are being shared across greater distances than before, because the big three download providers store their data primarily in Europe.

So "instead of terabytes of North America MegaUpload traffic going to US servers, most file sharing traffic now comes from Europe over far more expensive transatlantic links," according to Deepfield.

That doesn't really accomplish the purpose for which SOPA and PIPA were written. At best it may eventually cost heavy consumers of illegal content a bit more in access fees.

Seems like a small impact for such a big project.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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