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.