Just how popular are pirate sites?

The entertainment industry’s war on piracy is well known, but exactly how big an army it has been battling has always been something of a mystery. Pirate_flag

MarkMonitor, which protects online brands for its clients, has done some counting, though, and it estimates that Web piracy sites distributing software, films and other products attract roughly 53 billion visits per year.

Of the 43 sites identified in the report (note: PDF), three made up nearly half of the traffic totals: Rapidshare.com, Megavideo.com, and Megaupload.com. Rapidshare, for its part, strongly denied that it was a piracy platform in a statement to CNET, saying it was reserving the right to take legal action against MarkMonitor.

Studios claim to have lost $6.1 billion to video piracy in 2005 – though the Government Accounting Office has raised questions about the reliability of that number, suggesting there is a lack of a systematic means for tracking piracy and questioning the MPAA’s methods. The GAO, however, did not dispute the fact that piracy has a “sizable” impact on the film industry.