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Piracy costs entertainment industry billions, says report

Online TV and film piracy costs the US economy at least $29 billion in lost revenue each year. What's more, spiralling global visits to such sites are also estimated to be robbing the entertainment industry of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

These figures are cited in the latest overview of piracy markets, sent to the US government by the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The MPA, the Hollywood group which also represents Netflix, has been an influential player in the anti-piracy fight for several decades. Its report on notorious markets, annually submitted to the US Trade Representative, provides a detailed overview of the piracy landscape worldwide.

TorrentFreak reports that this year the MPA, as a representative of movie industry rights holders, was asked to explain how piracy not only hits original content but also impacts US workers. According to the group, the effect is significant.

"In 2020, there were an estimated 137.2 billion visits to film and TV piracy sites globally, which cost the US economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year. Specifically, piracy has been estimated to reduce employment in our industry between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs," the MPA reports.

Combined global theatrical and home entertainment revenue represented $99.7 billion in 2021, the MPA said, in its Theatrical and Home Entertainment Market Environment report for that year.

The notorious markets list is limited to non-US operations. For instance, it mentions domain name registries, such as the Russian .RU registry, and companies that maintain records for .CH, .CC, .IO, .ME and .TO. All these entities continue to ignore complaints and keep pirate sites up.

The MPA also calls out piracy-friendly payment providers, advertisers, and hosting companies, and is urging these intermediaries to stop catering to digital pirates and thereby profiting from mass commercial copyright infringement.

The report covers pirate sites, unauthorised internet-protocol television (IPTV) services, illegal download hubs, and streaming portals. The MPA adds that the companies and providers included in the list are only some of the worst offenders – warning that the piracy problem is much more widespread.

According to TorrentFreak, it is clear that the MPA is hoping the US government recognizes the damage online piracy causes to the American economy, takes action, and pushes other countries to do the same.

Netflix, also represented by the MPA, joined the group a few years ago. Reed Hastings, the streaming giant’s CEO, wasn't that worried about piracy a decade ago when he claimed that “some of the torrenting just creates the demand”.

However, this year, Netflix has reported a first-ever drop in subscriber numbers. And while its loss of over 200,000 is not blamed specifically on piracy, the company now spends millions of dollars tackling the problem and has its own in-house anti-piracy department.

The trend is worrying. True, the number of users illegally downloading or streaming content had been dropping consistently before the pandemic. But digital piracy is coming back: the worrying global spike in the cost of living means viewers are curbing spending on streaming services. Research conducted by Akamai found that piracy via streaming sites increased by 16% in 2021.

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