Massive Surge in Movie Piracy Due to Coronavirus Lockdowns
Mon, April 19, 2021

Massive Surge in Movie Piracy Due to Coronavirus Lockdowns



For a while there, it seemed like piracy was over, thanks to broadband internet and streaming technology. Through these technologies, it became a lot easier for consumers to access movies, music, and television series. Unfortunately, the growing availability of legal streaming options is not enough for some, thus, the re-emergence of piracy.


The Rise of Online Piracy

Consumers are constantly seeking new ways to watch television shows or stream new music as soon as it is released. Some even resort to illegal means to gain access to their favorite movies or shows. Current statistics on online piracy revealed that it has spread rapidly to every form of digital content such as movies, television, music, books, photos, video games, and software. There has been an increase in demand for music downloads, indicating that more music downloads are taking place illegally now than people would expect.

In 2017, users of pirate sites made 73.9 billion visits to illegally access music and 53.2 billion visits to download or stream movies. A 2018 report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) found that more than a third of music consumers still pirate music., an online site that helps people to learn the ins and outs of cyber-hygiene, reported that TV shows remain the most-popular content among pirates with over 106.9 billion visits to pirate websites in 2017. 

A 2019 report from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center estimated that online piracy accounts for 26.6 billion views of US-produced movies and 126.7 billion views of US-produced TV episodes every year. However, the economic impact of digital video piracy is not only felt in the movie and television industries. Reports show that it is responsible for at least $29.2 billion in lost domestic revenues, 230,000 in lost American jobs, and $47.5 billion in reduced GDP.



Online piracy has also affected the music industry. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an independent, nonpartisan research and educational institute, revenues for the industry dropped from a high of $14.6 billion in 1999 to $9.8 billion in 2018, even if it has already embraced legal music streaming business models such as iTunes and Spotify. Statistics also show that streaming is the most popular method of obtaining illegal content. It was reported that 23% of 34,000 internet users use illegal stream-ripping sites, which create downloadable files of music “ripped” from online streaming sites.

Music industry piracy statistics also emphasized the costs of music piracy and the immense consequences it has on the American economy. It was reported that more than 700,000 jobs per year in the US alone are lost because of the lost revenues that come from music piracy. At the same time, statistics reveal that between $40 and $97.1 billion in movie industry revenue is lost, while the range is $39.3 to $95.4 billion for the television industry.

The issue of online piracy isn’t just about revenues. It robs creators, publishers, and distributors of their earnings and disincentivizes creativity and innovation. Thus, many are urging policymakers to create policies or laws protecting copyright holders while also making sure that consumers can continue to enjoy the movies, television, music, books, games, and software the Internet gives us access to. 



Increased in Online Piracy 

Cities across the world ordered their citizens to stay at home to contain the spread of the virus. While this seems an effective measure to protect people, many industries are hugely affected by this. Recent reports have revealed a major surge in online piracy as billions of people around the world look for ways to watch movies and series.

A new report from piracy data company Muso revealed that visits to film piracy sites in China grew by 89% from January 18 to January 26. From January to February, there was an overall 12.21% increase in average daily visits to piracy sites as well. According to Independent, a British online publisher of news, Muso said that these latest figures "may well foreshadow a coming trend for global piracy" in March and April, since billions of more people have been forced into lockdown. 

"Muso tracked 11.2 billion visits globally to piracy sites in February 2020, but with so many cinemas now closed globally and demand for content high, if Muso's Chinese data is a barometer of piracy consumption to come then we would expect to see a continued rise in piracy activity for the rest of the world as more countries enforce COVID-19 lockdowns,” the company said. 

The report also showed that certain movies have seen a rise in piracy in China such as 2011's "Contagion,” which saw a 151.97% increase in piracy streaming visits from January to February, and this year's Oscar best-picture winner, "Parasite,” with a 240.04% increase. According to Business Insider, “Contagion” is just one of the many movies and TV shows about deadly viruses that have suddenly gained in popularity. Reports show that it became iTunes charts’ ninth most popular movie last week. Meanwhile, "Outbreak" and the docuseries "Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak" were recently included on Netflix’s daily top 10 lists of its most popular titles. 



Average daily torrent downloads from across the world significantly increased by 36% from January to February. Viewership on live-streaming website Twitch surged by around 17% compared to the previous quarter​, surpassing 3 billion hours watched for the first time. Recent statistics also showed that hours-watched on YouTube Gaming Live, Facebook Gaming and Mixer spiked by between 4% to 15%. 

Additionally, Popcorn Time, a notorious app for illegally streaming the latest movies and TV shows, has made its return amid the coronavirus pandemic. It has become a famous platform for consumers because it’s an easy and convenient way to access public-domain films. But, it also hosts illegally downloaded or pirated movies and TV shows. When it was launched as an alternative to streaming services like Netflix, many criticized it due to its illegal services. In the same year, the app’s founder was forced to shut it down due to growing pressure from movie executives, government authorities, industry lawyers, and federal courts.