Knowledge & News

Pandemic piracy

5 May 2020

Online media piracy spiked in March, according to a report issued by digital piracy tracking and analysis firm, Muso. In the UK alone, Muso recorded over 300 million visits to sites allowing media content to be downloaded illegally last month, as people have been forced to stay home due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. Figures for visits to piracy sites during the last week in March show a 57% increase on the same period in February.

With legitimate streaming services seeing an increase in subscribers (Netflix registered almost 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of the year, and Disney+ almost doubled its global subscribers to 50 million since it launched in the UK and Europe just as lockdowns began), it is inevitable that some will seek their media from unofficial sources.

Muso CEO, Andy Chatterley, confirmed that “Piracy or unlicensed consumption trends are closely linked to paid-for or licensed content. So just as Netflix has seen large subscriber gains, we have seen a significant spike in visits to film and TV piracy sites. Demand for content via piracy has grown exponentially.”

Now that media companies and rights owners have a better idea of how their content is being consumed, what next? As discussed in a previous article in relation to digital music in particular, it is vital that the creative industries and content platforms ensure that piracy prevention measures are in place for all their content.

Access to official digital media content platforms should be smooth and simple, so that the rights owners receive the full benefit of increased demand for content through legitimate channels. However, increasing segmentation in this market, which means consumers have to pay for multiple subscriptions to gain legitimate access to all their desired content, may also be a factor pushing consumers to seek access to media content illegally for free. As the market reaches saturation, it will be interesting to see what new models for accessing media content evolve.

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Claire Chalmers

Claire Chalmers Associate London (UK) Solicitor (UK)

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