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Pirates and Samaritans: A decade of measurements on peer production and their implications for net neutrality and copyright


  • Pouwelse, Johan A.
  • Garbacki, Pawel
  • Epema, Dick
  • Sips, Henk


This study traces the evolution of commons-based peer production by a measurement-based analysis of case studies and discusses the impact of peer production on net neutrality and copyright law. The measurements include websites such as,, and, and the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) systems Kazaa, Bittorrent, and Tribler. The measurements show the two sides of peer production, the pirate side with free availability of Hollywood movies on these P2P systems and the Samaritan side exhibited by the quick joining of 400,000+ people in a community to organize protests against events in Burma. The telecommunications and content industry are disrupted by this way of peer production. As a consequence, revenues of both industries are likely to suffer in the coming years. On the other hand, innovative P2P systems could win the battle on merit over classical distribution technologies. As a result, a continuation is expected of both legal actions against P2P and possible blocking actions of P2P traffic, violating net neutrality. It is argued that this hinders innovation and causes a large discrepancy between legal and user perspectives. A reform of copyright laws is clearly needed, otherwise they will be unenforceable around 2010.

Suggested Citation

  • Pouwelse, Johan A. & Garbacki, Pawel & Epema, Dick & Sips, Henk, 2008. "Pirates and Samaritans: A decade of measurements on peer production and their implications for net neutrality and copyright," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(11), pages 701-712, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:telpol:v:32:y:2008:i:11:p:701-712

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    Cited by:

    1. Potgieter, Petrus H., 2012. "High-definition content and file sharing networks," 19th ITS Biennial Conference, Bangkok 2012: Moving Forward with Future Technologies - Opening a Platform for All 72518, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).

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