Digital Video Piracy Isn't Fun and Games | Citizens Against Government Waste

Digital Video Piracy Isn't Fun and Games

The WasteWatcher

Technology is continually changing, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the video piracy space.  In 2014, CAGW President Tom Schatz and I co-authored a report entitled, Intellectual Property:  Making It Personal, where we discussed the ongoing issues surrounding the protection of intellectual property rights.  In this report, we referred to a study conducted by Envisional, which concluded that more than 99 percent of the traffic on the global peer-to-peer file sharing protocol BitTorrent contained infringing content. 

On June 18, 2019, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) released a report on the impact of video piracy on the U.S. economy.  This report found that in 2017, up to 80 percent of digital piracy is streamed over the internet instead of downloaded by torrenting, with the bulk of this piracy occurring outside the U.S. 

Speaking at the event launching the report, Dr. Jeffrey Eisenach, Managing Director and Co-Chair of NERA’s Communications, Media, and Internet Practice noted that the rise of illegal streaming stems from several factors, including an increase in live TV piracy; widespread possession of 4G capable handsets; and the convenience of illegal streaming. 

While some would say digital piracy only hurts the big money studios, there is a ripple effect to piracy that is felt throughout the economy.  According to the GIPC report, the U.S. movie and television industry directly supports 927,000 jobs and contributes $229 billion to the economy.  Many of these jobs are held by set builders, costume designers, script writers, and affects supporting industries including the hotel and food service industries.  Digital video piracy steals revenues from the U.S. to the tune of between $47.5 billion and $115.3 billion in reduced GDP, and most of this loss stems from digital video piracy of U.S. content by non-U.S. residents.

In part, this increase in streaming piracy stems from the rise of video streaming equipment sold with the promise of unlimited movies at no extra cost to the consumer.  These are not the typical Apple TV, Roku or TiVo device one typically thinks of as a streaming video service box with paid content.  These are known as illicit streaming devices (ISDs) that when loaded with the right software would enable illegal access to any channel a customer wants to see.  However, there is a hidden cost to these devices that users should be alerted to. 

According to an April 25, 2019 report from the Digital Citizens Alliance, ISDs are used to spread malware and exploit unsuspecting users.  With 12 million active users of ISDs in North America, this makes a tempting target for criminal organizations who can monetize stolen Netflix accounts and ads for premium brands.  These devices are purchased on online platforms and users are often encouraged to add new piracy apps, which enable hackers to bypass security settings designed to protect their system.

The profligate of streaming piracy not only holds an economic impact to those who create the content enjoyed around the world, but also endangers the computer systems, and networks over which the content is streamed.  While law enforcement is taking an active role in confiscating devices, consumers should also be wary of devices offering unlimited access to any content they want to view without any additional cost.