Nowadays, everyone with a high-speed internet connection is able to access high-quality entertainment content (TV shows, movies, music). The movie industry is widely regarded as the art form most governed by corporate interests. From directors to writers and actors, everyone in the sector has to make compromises to meet the market and executives’ demands. It’s no secret that often, filmmakers aren’t happy with the way studios interfere with the end results. However, this is far from the most ardent problem the film industry faces. Piracy is a practice that hurts actors, writers, and directors the most.
Wonder Woman 1984 was released on the 25th of December, 2020, in the US, registering $16.7 million on the opening weekend box office. However, the movie held the weekly tops of the most pirated movies throughout 2021, even if it was available online on a streaming service. The movie starring Gal Gadot was leaked, causing millions of illegal viewings and costing the studio millions in lost revenue.
People are using Internet-connected devices to watch entertainment content more than ever. Many of them are breaking the law by watching illegal copies of TV shows and movies they download from online resources, violating intellectual property and copyright laws. Even though the online availability of entertainment content is higher than ever, piracy still harms creators and artists. In 2021, an estimated 981 million pirated TV shows and films were downloaded only in the USA.
What are the results of movie piracy?
Considering the above example of Wonder Woman 1984, one would wrongly assume that piracy affects only big movie studios and content producers. But the truth is that the revenue lost due to piracy impacts everyone working in the entertainment sector, from directors and writers to electricians, makeup artists, and carpenters. And where do you count that it also has a negative effect on the countries’ economies?
Besides, movie piracy affects the average individual, even if they may not be aware of it (or downloading illegal copies of entertainment content). Research shows that illegal downloading and uploading of unlawful content takes over 24% of the bandwidth used in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. Therefore, slow internet connections could result from illegal copyright-infringing materials sharing.
Even if some Internet users don’t download or watch illegal entertainment content, they probably still receive photos, videos, or other types of files from people who do. Cybersecurity experts reveal that people are 28 times more likely to get malware from online resources that offer illegal content than if they’d browse the content on genuine websites or platforms. So, the individuals who access them or those who receive files could become victims of malware used to steal their personal data.
Piracy negatively impacts the job market, as the television and film sectors are responsible for over 2 million jobs only in the USA. In addition, local businesses and international hubs that support film production rely on revenue to thrive. Piracy reduces the number of movies made and the amount of revenue TV shows and films register, and the filmmaking industry worldwide deals with its effects.
What is the cost of piracy?
Research shows that digital video piracy costs the TV and movie sectors around $29 billion annually, and at least 230,000 jobs are lost due to it. Piracy affects all countries and caps the movie industry’s potential. Video piracy causes significant losses to the global economy, harming movie studios, content producing companies, technology providers, and employees working in the filmmaking sector. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in the number of illegal downloads that grew by 57% over a period of 18 months.
A report from the GIPC revealed that piracy across streaming platforms surpassed download-based piracy as the main method for illegally-viewed content. Pirated TV shows are the most popular kind of content among copyright-infringing videos, with over 230 billion views annually. Famous TV shows like Game of Thrones took drastic measures to prevent piracy for the final season, and still, a couple of its episodes were leaked ahead.
The film sector also experiences the negative financial effects of piracy with billions of illegal views. The effect of illegal downloading is split across movie distribution and production, with distribution losing a higher amount annually.
As stated before, the impact of piracy is also extended to the loss of jobs. Illegal video content triggers between 230,000 and 560,000 job losses every year.
Is there any way to deter piracy?
Big movie studios have some ways to deter piracy. For example, AT&T released Wonder Woman 1984 two weeks before it debuted in the USA and on HBO Max. However, as shown earlier, even in these conditions, the movie still became one of the most pirated movies of 2021. But the trick encouraged the public to see the film in theaters before downloading a high-quality illegal copy online. Other Hollywood studios chose to release some of their big names simultaneously to their streaming platforms and theaters.
Michael Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, stated that there will always be people willing to pirate entertainment content, and filmmakers shouldn’t worry about them, but of the ones who would have paid to see the content legally, but found piracy more convenient. Film producers should focus their efforts to prevent piracy among this second group of people. The greatest number of viewers who decide to download illegal content have no legal way to access it. They would have picked it if they had an easy legal way to view the TV show or movie.
Over the following years, we’ll witness a couple of experiments regarding release strategies to find the most effective ones in preventing illegal video downloading. The industry is aware that some titles are more popular than others, and there are particular trends on how people consume entertainment; they must watch to ensure they deter piracy.
However, like the previous years, it’s challenging to determine which method functions best because people’s habits change.