As digital systems have become more prominent globally and accessible to most in the last couple of years, so has the rise of illegal web and unlicensed web streaming sites. In a report by MUSO, released in March 2019, global piracy numbers reached almost 190 billion pirate site visits in 2018. It has been reported that over 189 billion visits were made to pirate sites in 2018. Television related piracy took up 49.38% of all activity related to piracy, with only 17.9% for access to film. Music was ranked third most pirated medium in 2018, with a 15.87% share. Publishing and software were less affected with 11.49% and 6.16% respectively.
In addition, in a recent report from Irdeto, MultiChoice Group’s digital platform security partner, in March 2019, Ghana, Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania were reported to be the highest consumers of pirated content in Africa.
Streaming piracy has now overtaken all other forms of threat to the revenue of legitimate service providers that have paid for content rights according to the wide consensus. It is estimated that almost 60 % of all piracy visits are to unlicensed web streaming sites, whereas public torrent networks now only equate to 13% of piracy visit activity. The arrival of IP-based distribution has raised further concerns. Recent data from Irdeto and its web analytics partner found an average of over 134 million visits per month and an average of almost 35 million unique visits per month to the top 10 live streaming linking sites.
Whilst there’s an urgent need to be vigilant and restrict the distribution of unlicensed content, there are also unintended consequences that most consumers are not aware off that are associated with pirated content. Viewing illegal streams, visiting pirated sites and downloading pirated content exposes consumers. Consumers are risking exposure to malware infection, cybercrime threats and other unintended consequences. The people behind the illegal streaming sites, pirated sites and distributors of illegal content are often criminals who will look to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers in any way they can to profit beyond pirated content.
Whilst it has also been suggested that there are links from large scale piracy to organized criminal groups who are involved in many other crimes, pirated content also impacts government’s tax revenue. The loss of income revenue by the creative industry, specifically film and TV producers, distributors and broadcasters amount to billions due to illegally downloading, purchase or streaming of content. As government cannot tax illegal purchases, a massive loss of tax revenue is incurred as a result of film & Television content piracy. A report last year from Digital TV Research predicted that lost revenue to online TV and movie piracy will nearly double to $52 million globally by 2022.
Society at large, creative industry, government, regulators, law enforcers and international policy enforcing agencies need to collaborate and work together to identify and takedown the distributors and personnel behind the pirated content. They can effectively put a stop to the supply side by making it difficult for pirates to thrive and monetize pirated content, demand can be reduced by educating consumers and society at large about the dangers and unintended consequences of download, streaming and purchasing pirated content.