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A new study released by the European Union Intellectual Property Office shows that despite the pandemic, visits to pirating sites continue to decline. This trend is visible for movies, TV shows and music, with the latter showing the largest decline. Income level and inequality seem to be the main drivers of piracy, but there is also a major caveat.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) regularly conducts studies to see how piracy evolves over time.
These studies help the public understand local piracy trends and can be used as data for future policy decisions.
This week, EUIPO published the latest version of the annual report online copyright infringement report. The study examines the period between 2017 and 2020 that includes the start of the Covid pandemic, where piracy is said to have increased.
Some copyright owners feared that this piracy boom would have lasting effects. However, this fear may be unwarranted, as EU visits to pirate sites have become less and less frequent.
EUIPO’s research is largely based on data from the MUSO hack tracker. It maps hacking consumption patterns across all EU Member States and the UK. This data includes visits to unauthorized movie, television and music sites.
One of the main findings of the latest study is that traffic to pirate sites continues to decline overall. This is calculated on the basis of the average number of monthly visits per Internet user.
The graph below shows that the number of pirates has been halved between 2017 and 2020. This trend is visible for all content categories and more pronounced for music, which has fallen by over 80% during this period. period.
These data also reveal that TV piracy is by far the most prevalent. Part of this could be due to the recurring nature of TV shows. At the end of 2020, around 70% of all pirate site visits were TV-related. The film and music categories are good for 20% and 10% respectively.
When the pandemic started, we noticed an increase in hacking. However, this effect was not permanent. The EU report confirms our previous findings that the increase in COVID hacking was transient.
As noted above, there has been an increase in hacking in the first few weeks of the pandemic. This effect was limited to TV content, however, and the downward trend continued later in the year.
Streaming is king
Another trend that continues is the move to streaming sites. The days when torrent and direct download sites dominated the piracy landscape are over a decade ago. Streaming is now good for over 80% of all hacks in the EU.
There are, however, regional differences in the use of pirate sources. In Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia, torrent sites still receive more traffic than streaming sites. In Germany, by contrast, only a tiny fraction of all hackers use torrents.
Piracy rates are also not the same across the EU. As shown below, hacking is most prevalent in Greece, Bulgaria and Slovakia. On the other side of the spectrum are Poland and Germany.
Income and availability
Many factors help to explain these differences. EU researchers looked at some of them and were able to draw some interesting conclusions.
A country’s income level has a significant impact on piracy rates. Low per capita income and a high degree of income inequality are associated with increased consumption of pirated content.
âAmong socio-economic factors, the level of per capita income and the extent of inequalities appear to have the greatest impact on the consumption of pirated content: high per capita income and a low degree of income inequality are associated with lower levels of illicit consumption. Â», Notes the report.
Another factor explaining regional differences is the availability of legal options and people’s awareness of them. Increased legal availability and awareness helps reduce piracy, the researchers found.
An Oulier and a massive warning
The EU report helps to understand how piracy develops over time. Most of the trends continue in the same direction, but we also spotted an outlier that is worth mentioning.
In recent years, the proportion of mobile hacking traffic has “caught up” to desktop traffic. However, towards the end of 2020, desktop traffic began to recede again. The study doesn’t explain this, but part of it may be that most people are working behind desktops at home during the pandemic.
There is also a major caveat that the search is limited to pirate sites. The researchers acknowledge this by mentioning that live sports streaming is not included, but the gap is wider than that.
The study really only covers part of the larger piracy landscape. The focus on web traffic means apps, streaming devices, and IPTV services aren’t included either. Maybe this is where some mobile users are going?
This caveat may also shed a different light on the decline in piracy, as these untracked piracy channels have seen explosive growth in recent years. According to some, these streaming tools are the biggest hacking threat right now.
As such, it’s entirely possible that overall levels of piracy haven’t gone down, or may have even gone up.