Anti-piracy organisations claim to have taken action against illegal film and television streaming, but statistics show that the practise is on the rise, with 215 billion illegal site visits in 2017.
This estimate, which covers 480,000 films and TV shows, comes from the British company MUSO, which claims to have the most complete data on piracy websites.
According to CEO Andy Chatterley, obtaining illegal content is as simple as it has ever been.
The entertainment sector is persistent.
It acknowledges that earlier efforts were unsuccessful. Targeting people with hefty fines for downloading a few films made authorities appear to be corporate bullies, and court orders to block websites were frequently a fruitless game of whack-a-mole.
These days, they concentrate on the big fish, or, in the words of Stan McCoy of the Motion Picture Association, which speaks for Hollywood studios, “people buying supercars with the millions they are making out of piracy sites.”
In order to coordinate anti-piracy efforts with other industry groups internationally, it established the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) in 2017. It performs the necessary research to locate large operators and notify the police.
With millions of monthly users each, ACE assisted in the closure of operators in Spain, Brazil, Germany, Vietnam, Egypt, and Tunisia in 2023 alone.
According to the organisation, there are obvious results, as evidenced by the prison terms for operators and the limited options for users. According to ACE, during its watch, there were 143 fewer illegal subscription services in the United States than there were 1,443.
Finding justifications – However, free entertainment is still simple to come by.
In just a few minutes, an AFP reporter was able to access the most recent episodes of the popular shows “Succession” and “White Lotus” without having to sign up or pay anything.
Many content pirates persist despite crackdowns.
Reddit’s r/piracy forum has 1.2 million users and every possible justification for their hobby, including the price of legal streaming services, access restrictions in some countries, and nebulous anti-capitalist rants.
Some are surprisingly direct: “I have no justifications. I could pay for it all if I wanted to, but I’d rather save the money for my retirement than give it to the CEO of some media company who makes a thousand times as much as I do, said Reddit user ScarecrowJohnny.
The proliferation of streaming options, with content now spread across more expensive subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, and many other services, is the dominant factor at the moment.
I used to pay for one or two, but now that there are 50 of the damn things and everything in the world is getting more expensive practically every day, I returned to piracy, Reddit user Jaydra wrote.
The observers are not impressed.
“Piracy always has an explanation, people. There used to be not enough choice, but now there is too much, McCoy said.
A lot of development
Ironically, media companies are now able to determine which films and TV shows are actually popular with the most accuracy thanks to MUSO’s piracy data, which has become more and more important as the streaming environment fragments.
In terms of top picks last year, “Spiderman: No Way Home” for the big screen and “House of the Dragon” for television came in first and second place, respectively. Today, piracy accounts for 95% of views rather than traditional downloads.
According to Chatterley, piracy serves as the world’s largest VOD (video-on-demand) platform.
“There are no access, cost, or platform biases. You watch what viewers are interested in.
“We have customers who browse popular content on pirate websites and then go out and purchase it for their platform.”
Since completely eliminating piracy is impossible, preventing its normalisation may be the most crucial objective for the sector.
“We’ve made a hell of a lot of progress to make it less easy,” McCoy said.
“People will break the law if they are committed to doing so. However, it ought to be a niche activity rather than a popular one.