EUIPO Study Indicates It's Likely That Piracy Traffic Has Decreased Significantly, Even During The Pandemic

from the problem-solved? dept

Back in April of 2020, which feels roughly like a damned lifetime ago, we discussed a much-publicized report that indicated explosive growth in traffic to pirate torrent and streaming sites for movies, music, television, and video games. Much hand-wringing ensued, which was largely silly. All kinds of media consumption traffic rose during the initial lockdown months of the COVID-19 pandemic and it only made sense that piracy traffic would follow suit, particularly when you consider the broader economic impact of the pandemic. This wasn’t some new paradigm shift in the piracy landscape; it was literally one of the most predictable things that could have happened.

But now, almost two years later, where are we at? Well, per a recent study by the EU Intellectual Property Office, piracy traffic hasn’t just fallen, it’s fallen sharply.

New research published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office shows that, despite the pandemic, piracy site visits continue to fall. This trend is visible for movies, TV shows, and music, with the latter showing the sharpest drop. Income level and inequality appear to be major piracy drivers, but there’s a major caveat as well.

We’ll get into that caveat more a bit later, but it’s worth pointing out that all the data for this report comes from MUSO. MUSO is an anti-piracy outfit, albeit one that isn’t afraid to embrace some new and interesting ideas. Still, as an organization that is certainly not incentivized to play down piracy numbers. And, yet, the numbers do indicate a significant trend downward.

The chart below shows that the piracy numbers roughly halved between 2017 and 2020. This trend is visible for all content categories and most pronounced for music, which dropped by more than 80% during this time period.

These data also reveal that TV piracy is by far the most common. This could in part be due to the recurring nature of TV shows. At the end of 2020, roughly 70% of all pirate site visits were TV-related. The film and music categories are good for 20% and 10% respectively.

The COVID boom was either never a thing, or it was so short-lived that it basically isn’t worth talking about. This tracks with other pandemic related effects on the nation, such as the stock market crash that then came roaring back almost immediately. Humans, as it turns out, are perfectly capable of wild swings of behavior and outlook when pressured by a historic event.

But the overall downward trend over recent years is very easy to explain: streaming. As the public gets more and more comfortable with utilizing streaming services in order to get the content they want, services that are often well-priced and easy to use, the desire for piracy goes down. For $50 a month across several streaming services I can get nearly all the content I want? Fine, then no need to engage in risky or even non-risky pirate behavior.

Now, about that caveat…

The study really only covers a part of the broader piracy landscape. The focus on web traffic means that apps, streaming devices, and IPTV services are not included either. Perhaps that’s where some mobile users are going?

This caveat may also shed a different light on the piracy drop, as these untracked piracy channels have grown explosively in recent years. According to some, these streaming tools are the largest piracy threat at the moment.

And perhaps there is some truth to that, though it feels quite unlikely that IPTV services explain the global drop of piracy levels across the board. TV and movies are one thing, but IPTV doesn’t factor into music or video game piracy in any serious way. But Spotify and subscription based gaming services certainly do.

So if the trend is that piracy is on the significant downswing, you would think we’d see the IP industries ratchet down the rhetoric on the evils of piracy. Somehow, I cannot quite convince myself to hold my breath on that one.

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Companies: muso

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Comments on “EUIPO Study Indicates It's Likely That Piracy Traffic Has Decreased Significantly, Even During The Pandemic”

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26 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

So if the trend is that piracy is on the significant downswing, you would think we’d see the IP industries ratchet down the rhetoric on the evils of piracy. Somehow, I cannot quite convince myself to hold my breath on that one.

With the IP industries, increasing piracy requires even stronger laws to combat the evil, and a downswing means the laws are starting to work, but need strengthening to consolidate the gains.

Wyrm (profile) says:

So if the trend is that piracy is on the significant downswing, you would think we’d see the IP industries ratchet down the rhetoric on the evils of piracy.

Not when we’ve seen them operate with the old "ever guilty" assumption: if piracy traffic goes up, obviously piracy is on the rise; if piracy traffic goes down, obviously pirates learned how to hide better.

There are other cases where this kind of reasoning is used. It’s obviously flawed, but logic is not how they work. Assuming conclusions and working backwards from there is their SOP. They never doubt their own business model, they never doubt their own communication tone. They tell their lies, back them with sophistry and random stats ("lies, damned lies and statistics") and bribe politicians when all else fails. (Ah sorry, they "totally not bribe" politicians, they just speak to them in the dollar language. Thanks, SCOTUS.)

PeterScott (profile) says:

Makes sense that it's falling faster for music, and slower for T

Generally, you only need one Music streaming service, and you get all the music you need. So music streaming has really been the service that can be better than Piracy to significantly curtail it.

TV OTOH is becoming an increasingly fragmented streaming landscape, with exclusives at Disney, Apple TV, Amazon, HBO, Netflix, etc…

So consumers feel a bit annoyed with the need to subscribe to 7 different streaming TV sources, to watch all the shows they want to see, so no surprise that more are resorting to TV piracy.

ECA (profile) says:

Piracy is part of Capitalism, but NOT the american way.

As said.
Piracy can show the system whats needed, as pirates can only function if there is a need. And it under cuts Much of a Corp controlled Black market.

Most piracy, in the past, was generally getting a copy that would work on a Phone, Digital TV, and NOT on tape. Finding the copies of what you already had and/or those SHOWS you wanted. 99% of it wasnt to resell.
It was the unavailable products, in formats you wanted/needed to use them. AND being able to bypass the 2-3 DRM’s on the product. Such as Dolby digital, if your DVD+TV+ sound system didnt have the proper DRM in them you would get crap video, crap sound.
And now we have many little devices that let us stream direct from the net and we can find most anything out there.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not holding my breath either. The copyright cultists will never stop attacking the pirates because they believe pirates is the bane of their quest to extract maximum profit for every single copy or use of their copyrighted content.

I used to pirate tv shows or movies regularly years ago because I do not use cable. now I dont bother to because streaming. It’s affordable as like just $50 per month for 4 services. and you get numerous quality tv shows, so many good options that theres not enough hours to watch them all. And it comes with quality subtitles which can be quite the headache to find and add to pirated copies often lacking them. And you get quality pictures that comes in 4k resolution. You dont have deal with files or computer or wait for downloads to complete in order to watch. And you can watch the videos on different devices… smartphone, smart tv, tablets, and computers. And you don’t have to worry about VPNs or getting in trouble with the copyright police. the pirates cant compete anymore with all that conviences and quality of the paid service. It’s just superior than the free service.

Now for PC games, its mixed. The pirated version often is of superior quality than the DRM-ridden paid version because DRM can be pain in the ass. But you dont get regular automatic updates and you now can get DRM free games from GOG with updates. It often just make more sense to just buy the games and you get to support the developers which is encouraged by various pirate groups.

So I’m not surprised that piracy is declining. Its not from thei copyright cultists’ propaganda or their ineffective anti-piracy drives but because some of the copyright industry realize wha the consumers want and finally decided to give what they want instead of ruthlessly exploiting and abusing them.

It feels nice when I feel like I’m not objectified as a money resource to serve the disgusting greed of the copyright cultists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s insane that you somehow don’t see the segmentation of the streaming market that involved yanking distribution agreements because they were pissed off at Netflix’ success and creating their own services which made your total cost go up by about 400% as you being an object of revenue for the capitalists. How people who chastise nearly every corporate use of copyrights accept this as a legitimate use is just baffling.

I think deep down you know you are still inserting an ever growing monthly fee into the pocket of shitbags, sometimes even the same shitbags you think you’re hurting by cancelling cable. Your money just enters through a different revenue stream now. This is what the vaping community has tried. Start vaping to bring down big tobacco! Except when you walk into a gas station big tobacco has a stake in every prepackaged vape product now. Good job bringing down Altria by buying their vapes instead of cigs.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"It’s insane that you somehow don’t see the segmentation of the streaming market that involved yanking distribution agreements because they were pissed off at Netflix’ success and creating their own services which made your total cost go up by about 400% as you being an object of revenue for the capitalists."

Well, there is a reason piracy is still going strong. The market fragmentation really is the clearest example that if the copyright cult ever finds a win-win solution they’ll always choke it out of existence just to squeeze those few percent extra margin out of the current business model.

I’m putting my money on the copyright cult eventually managing to finally smear the public perception of copyright to the point that future generations will refer to it as the prohibition era of the 2000’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s loads of free to play games on pc many services epic etc give free game services away free games very month many game sales on steam modern consoles with games for Xbox, ps5 300 to 500gig in size I can’t see how anyones going to even try pirating them
Xbox game pass is very cheap
Games are no longer 3 or 4 gig when they would fit on one dvd disc
Many pc games rely on online updates new content which will not work on a pirated copy of a game

Anonymous Coward says:

If true that’s disappointing. More people returning to piracy seemed to be logical as the nickle and diming of streaming services being walled off by publisher increased.

But this could also just be TechDirt’s bias and insistence that paying $65 for 9 different streaming services when you used to just get everything from one service for $10 a month somehow is competition that’s good for the consumer simply because 9 companies is more than 1.

Personally I still am able to find free streaming sources for whatever I want so my "piracy’ didn’t get picked up.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"But this could also just be TechDirt’s bias and insistence that paying $65 for 9 different streaming services when you used to just get everything from one service for $10 a month"

You seem to be full of shit. Why are you lying? Or, where do you live where you used to get a complete cable package for $10/month?

Nobody’s ever said that. They have said that paying for different services to access what you used to have in a $100 cable service is a good thing even if you end up paying what you used to pay for the old service, because it gives you far greater power and flexibility as to what you want to pay for and you’re not subsidising a hundreds channels you never watch, If you decide you want to pay less, you just cancel the services you want to cancel, and option you typically never had with cable packages. Most people pay less than they used to, but if you want to save money you have far more options than you used to. If you have decided that you need to subscribe to 9 services for some reason even though you probably don’t need to every month, that’s on you.

"Personally I still am able to find free streaming sources for whatever I want so my "piracy’ didn’t get picked up."

There are legal free services (something you idiots never seem to factor in for some reason), but if you’re pirating then it makes your above complaint even stupider since you’re not in the situation you’re complaining about.

PaulT (profile) says:

"These data also reveal that TV piracy is by far the most common. This could in part be due to the recurring nature of TV shows"

It’s mentioned above, but the problem is simply fragmentation of the market. If you want to listen to a song, chances are that it’s almost certainly going to be on YouTube, Spotify or some other service legally. It would take more effort to try pirating it than to just play it through the service you already have access to.

For TV shows, everyone is trying to release shows to their own siloed service, and it’s a pain in the ass to work out which show is on which service, sometimes these switch services, and sometimes they’re not available to stream anywhere while the switch happened (IIRC, Seinfeld and Friends both were unavailable for a few months while they were switching). So, it takes more time and effort to work out where to view, and to set up an account, etc., even if you’re willing to do that when you’re already paying for 6 services, than it does to raise the Jolly Roger.

But, having said all that…

"The focus on web traffic means that apps, streaming devices, and IPTV services are not included either. Perhaps that’s where some mobile users are going?"

Wow. That’s like doing a report on changing music listening habits, then revealing that your methodology only includes CD purchases and FM radio. Your results might not be wrong comparing like-for-like with previous studies, but you’re probably not going to be able to come to any meaningful conclusion since you omitted 95% of activity.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"So, it takes more time and effort to work out where to view, and to set up an account, etc., even if you’re willing to do that when you’re already paying for 6 services, than it does to raise the Jolly Roger."

It’s absolutely amazing how much work it takes to persuade copyright cultists that it’s the inconvenience which is the usual dealbreaker for pirates and not the money. At least for the only ones which are potential customers.
After FSM only knows hos many studies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Or maybe they’re opting for other sources of entertainment such as free-to-play YouTube video essays. Or maybe everyone’s running SurfShark VPN. Or doing something else with their time besides passive entertainment.

Really the one perk MUSO has is that they’re an antipiracy outfit not completely staffed by douchebags. Which is both impressive and unimpressive at the same time, because it’s a very low bar to clear that has consistently stumped the likes of the RIAA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting, have they calculated in the existence of VPNs and seedboxes that mask your piracy habits from the entertainment industry’s hunter-killer drones?

VPNs don’t mask the pirate activity, just the source of the requests.

If 10,000 people visit a pirate website, and 50% use a VPN, guess what, they are still going to see 10,000 people visit a pirate website.

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