Piracy within the media industry began long before the emergence of the internet, and it continues to exert pressure on content owners and broadcasters alike. There is no silver bullet to eliminate this illegal activity and despite the arrival of new technology in the form of subscription services, offering greater accessibility than ever before, piracy continues to grow at a seemingly uncontrollable rate.
Exclusive consumer research study
But why do consumers continue to engage in pirate content which is often perceived as being inferior in audio-visual quality, frequently containing viruses and leaving consumers vulnerable to the theft of personal and financial information? We take a closer look in our (free to download) exclusive consumer research study.
A journey through time – Bicycling
First, let’s review how piracy, specifically within the audio-visual industry has evolved over the years. It may come as a surprise, but the piracy of movies began in the early 20th Century during a time known as The Silent Era. The very first form of film infringement was known as “bicycling”. Exhibitors who had legitimately rented a silent film would exceed their terms of contract by playing the content multiple times, or by broadcasting the film in more than one theatre to increase revenue.
This was eventually policed by what was referred to as “checkers”. Checkers were employed to attended unauthorized screenings, identifying those responsible for any breach of contract and taking appropriate action against the perpetrators.
Camcorder recordings, VHS and DVD
In the 1960’s camcorder recordings were doing the rounds. The manual process of paying to view new releases at a theatre and illegally recording movies hit the industry hard despite the audio-visual quality of these recordings being typically poor. This form of piracy still exists today.
With the invention of the Video Home System (VHS) in the late 1970’s, the movie industry entered the consumers home and with it… pirate content. This new technology posed a different threat to content, facilitating recordings from a variety of sources including from television broadcasts and other VCR’s. The ability to copy from one tape to another accelerated content sharing and as a result content creators and broadcasters felt the impact.
Piracy goes digital
In the late 90’s the DVD was introduced, yet it wasn’t until the early 00’s when DVDs overtook VHS usage. As the audio-visual quality improved piracy continued to skyrocket. Using computer software to copy DVD’s known as “ripping” saw the widespread sale of pirate copies. DVD were also being uploaded and shared peer-to-peer (P2P) across pirate websites such as Napster and later Piratebay. At this point piracy was at an all-time high and at a seemingly uncontrollable level.
Modern day piracy – The power of The Oscars
We at Smart Media Protection recently protected eleven movies from digital piracy which were nominated for the Oscars 2020. These included 1917 directed by Sam Mendes, Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Let’s take a look at our findings:
1917 is a War Drama which premiered across cinemas in January 2020. To date we have discovered over 6,000 infringements coming mainly from cyberlockers files (3037) Google torrents (2,544), link pages (278), YouTube (141) and Twitter (94). In January we identified a total of 3,560 infringements for this movie, and in the first 11 days of February the number already reached an additional 2,578. The movie was nominated for a number of awards at this year’s Oscars including Best Picture, finally walking away with three awards which drove awareness for the movie and with it the increased demand for pirate copies.
Pain and glory, a drama written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar was released on the big screen in March 2019 in which time we detected almost 11,000 infringements.
Finally, our protection of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie which premiered in August 2019 was subject to almost 17.000 infractions. Interestingly, in December we detected the highest number of infringements (4,010). August, the month it launched saw the second highest (3,231), and January this year coming in third (2,603). In the first 11 days of February almost 1,200 were detected suggesting that The Oscars has once again had a hand in driving this pirate content. Across the 11 movies we discovered a total of 89,985 cases of digital piracy from a variety of sources. In total, we at Smart Protection have protected more than 2,000 audio-visual titles achieving a successful elimination rate of more than 95%.
Consumer trends towards pirate content – Our exclusive research study
As the digital piracy of movies and TV series continues to grow, we carried out an exclusive survey to better understand consumer trends towards these pirate copies. Our findings echo the growing scale of the issue discussed throughout this article.
82% of those that were questioned either download or stream films or series online. It’s this group that were asked an additional 20 questions relating to their relationship and sentiments towards the consumption of pirate content online.
59.65% of respondents admit that either all the movies and series they watch are pirate copies (19.29%), that they regularly download or stream pirate content (10.39%), or that they do so on occasions (29.97%). A further 12.76% have never consumed pirate movies or series but would do so if they knew how. The majority of this pirate content is accessed through a pirate website (64.73%) or via an app (24.64%).
Half of respondents (50.31%) recognize that the audio-visual content on pirate copies is inferior to the original, whilst a quarter (25.46%) believe that their personal and payment details are put at risk by the consumption of pirate content but despite this they still choose to consume audio-visual content in this way.
Interestingly, more than half claim that lower pricing could convince them to pay for access to movies or series from an official source, so cost is a clear issue here.
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