Online piracy sees huge surge despite police crackdown

Websites hosting free streams of films and TV account for more than 80 per cent of all piracy

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 14 February 2023 12:45 GMT
'When you stream a pirated copy of a movie right after its release '

Film piracy has increased by more than a third over the last year, according to the latest figures.

Illegal streaming of films grew 38.6 per cent between 2021 and 2022, data from piracy research firm Muso revealed, while visits to free streaming sites rose by nearly 9 per cent.

Early data from 2023 suggest the trend will continue this year.

Online piracy experts attribute its rise in popularity to a combination of factors, including the increase of content post pandemic and economic pressures like the cost of living crisis.

The main driver of the trend, according to some, is the growing number of subscription streaming platforms that mean consumers can no longer meet all their viewing demands for a reasonable price.

“Unlike the legal entertainment ecosystem, all titles are available everywhere, and for free,” Muso noted in a blog post detailing the surge in illegal streaming.

“This trend continues to be a major issue for the industry, significantly impacting the revenues and livelihoods of all involved - particularly smaller, independent creators - and damaging the wider economy.”

It is estimated that global online piracy costs the US economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year, though this figure assumes that people using illegal streaming services would otherwise pay for the content.

Websites hosting illicit streams of films and TV account for more than 80 per cent of all piracy, according to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center, having overtaken download-based technologies like BitTorrent.

A 2019 study by the department claimed that the solution involved “global collaboration among industries and governments to educate consumers of the dangers of piracy, coupled with the expansion of legal options in cases of infringement”, however a study by Vocus Group NZ that same year found that piracy rates fall when content is easier to access.

Despite these findings, police in the UK have attempted to crackdown on people hosting and accessing illegal online streams in recent months, with officers from West Mercia Police serving notices to more than 1,000 people last month ordering them to cease illegal streaming activity.

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