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For years, consumers griped about cable bundling and having to pay high prices for hundreds of channels they never watched in order to get the handful they enjoyed. Despite the growing availability of legal streaming options since then, piracy statistics show that infringement has remained a real concern.
Internet piracy isn’t ethically justifiable, but it is convenient. If you want to legally watch and rewatch The Crown, Game of Thrones, and The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll have to pay for three separate streaming services: Netflix, HBO, and Hulu. Before you know it, your monthly expenses will have skyrocketed.
But do you know what’s free? Illegally downloaded movies and TV shows. You can almost hear the whispers of temptation in the air: “Go on – piracy isn’t that bad.”
But before you ditch the streaming services for an illegal torrent, take a look at the alarming piracy statistics we’ve compiled. They’ll show you that piracy is making a comeback, but they’ll also warn you against falling into this bad habit.
Key Piracy Statistics: Editor's Choice
- Pirated video material gets over 230 billion views a year.
- More than 80% of global online piracy can be attributed to illegal streaming services.
- Digital video piracy is costing the US economy between $29.2 and $71 billion each year.
- 126.7 billion viewings worth of US-produced TV episodes are pirated every year.
- 70,000 jobs a year are lost in the United States due to music piracy.
- Annual global revenue losses from digital piracy are between $40 and $97.1 billion in the movie industry.
- Illegal downloading of copyrighted materials takes up 24% of the global bandwidth.
Number of visits to pirate sites per country
What is piracy, and what are its consequences to society? MUSO is a company that deals with these questions every day. It also tracks piracy trends across various media categories and analyzes the most interesting of them. In its 2018 report, the company found there were over 190 billion visits to pirate sites in 2018 alone. See the following list:
Visits per country
Recent online piracy statistics show that over 50% of these recorded visits went to streaming sites, which remain the go-to tool for most users. However, torrent and direct-download portals are also popular.
It’s interesting to note that the UK secured a spot among the top 10, despite a range of restrictions on pirate sites and public outcry against these practices. The United States took the win with nearly 28 billion pirate downloads, followed by India and Brazil.
However, there is one major player missing: China. The world’s most populous country is often portrayed as a place where pirated downloads dominate the market. However, China has recorded a relatively low total of 4.6 billion visits so far in 2019, which is not enough to move it up from 18th place.
Rampant music piracy rates
1. In 2017, users of pirate sites made 73.9 billion visits to illegally access music and 53.2 billion visits to download or stream movies.
Many people thought the rise in popularity of on-demand services had solved piracy, but statistics on media piracy from the past couple of years show that theory simply doesn’t stack up. An increase in demand for music downloads indicates that more music downloads are taking place illegally now than people would expect, given the rise of streaming services like FireStick and Spotify.
2. Mobile piracy is on the rise; more than 87% of those looking to download music now use their mobile devices to do so.
While desktop devices used to be the preferred machines for illegally downloading music, more people are now accessing pirated TV and music content via mobile devices.
According to MUSO’s music piracy statistics, desktops were still preferred among movie pirates as recently as 2018. However, with significant advances in mobile technology since then, it’s now more convenient for pirates to visit illegal music downloading sites or stream movies on their phones.
3. More than a third of music consumers still pirate music.
In April 2018, IFPI conducted a global study into the way consumers engage with and pirate music. To verify their suspicions, researchers looked into thousands of licensed and unlicensed services.
The resulting statistics on media piracy show that a little over 38% of consumers still access their favorite music via copyright infringement.
4. 32% of music piracy takes place via stream-ripping.
(Music Consumer Insight Report)
Stream-ripping is exactly what it sounds like. It involves illegally downloading a file that is being played on any streaming platform, including Spotify and YouTube. Music piracy statistics show that it’s the hottest trend in music piracy right now. Indeed, there are dozens of stream-ripping websites and tools that anybody can find with a simple Google search.
Using this music piracy method, consumers avoid paying premium subscription fees for platforms that let them listen to music while they’re offline.
5. Stream ripping services saw a 1390% surge in popularity in the UK between 2016 and 2019.
(PRS for Music)
A study conducted by the licensing body PRS for Music found that this massive surge eclipses all other illegal online music activity. Over 80% of the top 50 music piracy websites are now sites specializing in stream-ripping, and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
6. In 2016, 57 million Americans were still pirating music in one form or another.
According to MusicWatch, an estimated 57 million Americans engaged in stream-ripping or pirating music just a few years ago. The same report pointed out that 35% of American music buyers have acquired at least one song from a pirated source.
7. The average teen’s iPod had 800 pirated songs in 2008.
Back in 2008, online statistics on music piracy pointed out that people aged between 14 and 25 had an average of 800 pirated songs on their iPod. Almost half of them said they were willing to share their digital music with others, enabling others to copy hundreds or even thousands of music files at a time.
Nowadays, few people still use old-school iPods, but the habit of illegally downloading and sharing music lives on.
8. 83% of UK adults who have pirated music say they did so because of a lack of paid options.
Is it illegal to download music from YouTube? One of the recent MUSO surveys asked this question – and more – to over 1,000 UK adults. More than half of the correspondents said they had illegally downloaded music at some point. Over 83% of them said they tried to find the content in question by legal methods first.
In response to the question “Is it illegal to download music?” respondents listed the following reasons to justify why they had obtained content illegally:
- 35.2% did so because it was free.
- 34.9% blamed the lack of music availability on subscription channels.
- 34.7% said some music is not available where they live.
9. More than 70,000 jobs per year in the US alone are lost because of the lost revenues that came from music piracy.
Music industry piracy statistics highlight the costs of music piracy and the immense consequences on the American economy. Music theft costs American workers significant losses in jobs and earnings as well as costing the US government substantial lost tax revenues.
Movie piracy rates: A huge comeback in the streaming age
10. Pirated video material gets over 230 billion views a year.
(Forbes & Statista)
The US accounts for around 15 billion of that total, 12.8 billion of which are TV shows and 2.2 billion movies. In other parts of the world, the numbers show similar preferences: 215 billion views for TV shows and 44.7 billion for movies.
11. TV shows remain most popular among pirates, with 106.9 billion visits to TV-pirating sites in 2017.
Piracy is not just about music and movies; the constant demand for popular TV shows is stronger than ever. TV shows remain the most popular among pirates, with 106.9 billion visits to pirated movie sites in 2017.
Is streaming movies illegal in the USA? This remains a blurry subject for lawmakers in the country.
However, since streaming services offer quite limited content and only show a selection of popular TV shows currently on the market, it’s no wonder pirated movie websites and streaming services are booming in the United States.
12. In total, 126.7 billion episodes worth of US-produced TV series are illegally downloaded or streamed every year.
(National Economic Research Associates)
This study investigated the impacts of digital video piracy on the US economy. According to the study’s movie piracy statistics, the number of TV episodes pirated digitally in the US has reached an all-time high.
This number surely affects the US economy in terms of lost movie industry revenue as well as lost jobs and tax revenue.
13. More than 80% of global online piracy is attributable to illegal streaming services.
(GIPC, NERA Economic Consulting)
According to research conducted by NERA Economic Consulting and the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation and Policy Center, over four-fifths of all online piracy-related activities are linked to illegal streaming websites. This trend is especially prominent in the TV and movie industry.
14. Digital video piracy is costing US content and distribution sectors between $29.2 and $71.0 billion each year.
(GIPC, NERA Economic Consulting)
Digital piracy stats reveal that the impact on the American content production industry may be anywhere between 11% and 24% in revenue losses, diminishing the benefits that the streaming service industry brought to the table.
15. The global movie industry’s revenue losses from digital piracy are between $40 and $97.1 billion per year.
(GIPC, NERA Economic Consulting)
To be able to calculate how much exactly is lost to digital piracy, this study took into account a minimum replacement rate of 14% and a maximum rate of 34%. This calculation was derived on the assumption that 66% to 86% of digital piracy doesn’t actually replace paid consumption.
Statistics for film piracy then showed the total value of pirated content and revenue lost due to widespread piracy. Between $40 and $97.1 billion in movie industry revenue is lost, while that range is $39.3 to $95.4 billion for the television industry.
16. Illegally uploading or downloading copyrighted materials takes up nearly 24% of the bandwidth used in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific.
Global internet piracy is growing rapidly in spite of stricter piracy laws in the US and the potential for harsh penalties. In three key regions – North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific – 23.8% of internet bandwidth is used for piracy.
The same study found that, in those three regions, 178.7 million unique internet users turned to BitTorrent for digital piracy.
17. More than 50% of torrent and streaming pirates use desktop devices.
Movie piracy statistics from 2017 show that almost exactly half of the consumers were still watching pirated movies using their desktop devices.
Just a few years later, it’s easier than ever to pirate movies, videos, and music using mobile devices. Desktop computers are still the most popular tool for online torrenting, but that might not be the case for long.
18. Consumers who make pirate downloads are 28 times more likely to get their device infected with malware.
(Digital Citizens Alliance)
Even if you never illegally download, you probably know people who do. It’s not surprising that many pirate websites offer files that are infected with malware.
Statistics for film piracy gathered across a range of studies point out that the device you use for pirating could get infected with malware, which can compromise your personal information within seconds and put you at risk of falling victim to identity theft. When you consider all that, your free pirate movie no longer seems such a good idea.
If you do pirate content, you’re 28 times more likely to get infected than those who don’t.
Software piracy: a widespread epidemic
19. 57% of computer uses in the Asia Pacific and Central/Eastern Europe regions confess to having pirated software at least once.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
BSA surveyed over 15,000 consumers from 33 countries and asked a rather direct question: “How often do you acquire pirated software or software that is not fully licensed?”
Their software piracy statistics results showed that 57% of correspondents confessed to pirating software, but not one of them was caught for illegal downloading.
20. Between 2015 and 2017, the software industry lost $46.3 billion to piracy theft.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
The software industry loses tens of billions of dollars to software piracy every year.
According to this BSA survey, the reason for such an increase in the amount of stolen software between 2015 and 2017 was a rise in PC shipments sent to countries with emerging economies. Statistics on high software piracy rates show that people in poorer countries are much more likely to pirate software, and this is where the software industry loses the most.
21. Software piracy rates worldwide dropped to 37% in 2017, down by 2% from the previous two years.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
This survey looked into PC software piracy only. Even though these digital piracy statistics suggest a slight decline in the number of unlicensed software, it’s important to note that piracy itself, especially software piracy, remains widespread.
22. Most countries still have unlicensed software rates of 50% or higher.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
Every time someone downloads software from one of the many pirated sites out there, the copyright holder misses out on profits. Moreover, software piracy is considered a federal crime, and some cases can result in the perpetrator paying federal statutory damages.
Still, statistics on digital piracy for people who understand the risks – like those living in the US – remain lower. Countries that turn a blind eye to software theft typically have pirated software rates of 50% or higher.
23. In the United States, only 16% of software is used without permission.
It seems corporations and individuals in America are aware of the previously mentioned pirating facts and of the dire consequences of pirating software.
From a business perspective, it makes sense not to use pirated programs. Not only are they illegal, but they also come with massive security risks. Companies that purchase software legally not only avoid being a part of notorious piracy statistics, but they can also protect themselves from unnecessary risks.
24. 83% of unlicensed users in mature markets don’t want to break the law and are willing to pay for software once they realize their mistake.
The good news here is that most pirates are opportunistic rather than malicious. Most of these users aren’t even aware they’re using pirated software. Once they realize they’ve installed an unlicensed program, they’re not averse to paying for the licensed version of the product.
25. Globally, two in five copies of software products in distribution are unpaid.
Statistics on software piracy show that two in five copies of software programs around the world haven’t been paid for. Unfortunately, in the software industry, there’s an unspoken rule: The more expensive and valuable your software product is, the more likely it is that people will be downloading pirate versions of the product.
26. On average, a malware attack takes 243 days to detect, costs $2.4 million, and takes 50 days to resolve.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
Organizations have a one in three chance of encountering malware when they obtain or install an unlicensed software product. Of all the digital piracy statistics we’ve compiled, this is perhaps the most compelling reason to avoid downloading unlicensed software and, in the process, risking a malware attack.
Improving software compliance is now an economic and security imperative for many companies in their fight against online piracy.
27. A 20% increase in software compliance can improve a company’s profits by 11%.
(BSA: The Software Alliance)
Organizations that obey piracy laws and take proactive steps in increasing software compliance profit in the long run.
When companies take pragmatic steps to boost their bottom line, they can expect an average increase in profits of 11%, according to the latest piracy statistics. This requires some software asset management to ensure the programs that are currently running on the network are fully licensed.
28. 76% of employees would not report the illegal use of software at their company.
Is pirating illegal? Of course, but it seems over three-quarters of employees would turn a blind eye to this malpractice at the office.
Of those, 13% said they would ignore it to secure their position in the company, 22% wouldn’t want a ‘whistleblower’ reputation, and 46% simply don’t care.
The demographic profile of pirates
29. Back in 2004, the average pirate was between 16 and 24 years old, male, and lived in an urban area.
Here’s a retro stat for you: According to media piracy statistics from an MPA study conducted way back in 2004, the 16-24 age group had by far the highest rate of internet piracy. The study looked into every country’s piracy rates and found that more than 58% of pirates were in this age category.
The numbers in the US were even higher; more than 71% of illegal downloaders were in the 16-24 age group in the mid-2000s. More than 15 years later, piracy is much more mainstream. These days anyone can be a pirate, regardless of age, gender, or location.
30. In 2018, piracy was much more evenly spread across age groups, with those aged 25 to 34 the most likely to pirate content in the UK.
(University of Amsterdam Institute for Information Law)
How things have changed! More than half the pirates in 2004 were teenage boys or young men, but by 2018, that stereotype was no longer representative. According to these piracy stats, 43% of pirates in the UK are women, and 36% are over the age of 35. It’s fair to say piracy is now so mainstream that basically anyone can get their hands on pirated content.
31. More than any other generation, millennials are normalizing piracy.
(Red Points Solutions)
The majority of millennials download torrents online, so it’s no surprise that this age group is pushing for more mainstream acceptance of piracy. From the latest internet piracy statistics, it seems this generation is taking piracy to new levels of popularity.
There are a number of factors influencing millennials’ pro-sharing attitude. Some of these include their immersion in technology and the lack of a deeper moral understanding of why is watching movies online illegal.
32. Among kids aged between 12 and 17 in Australia, piracy has nearly doubled in recent years.
(Red Points Solutions)
Some of the more current piracy statistics show that 31% of minors in Australia are pirating movies or enjoying illegal music downloads. This has resulted in great public concern in the Land Down Under.
33. Those in the 30-44 age category are most likely to pirate books.
Over the past couple of years, a new piracy market has emerged: books. In 2017, there were more than 16.5 million illegal book downloaders in the United States alone.
Entertainment piracy statistics show that music and movie piracy has remained most popular among younger people. Still, when it comes to downloading books, the typical internet pirate falls into the 30-44 age bracket.
34. 44.44% of male college-age students see online music piracy as positive, while only 14.62% of female students think the same.
University of Southern Mississippi)
While both genders regularly pirate music and TV shows, it seems men have a higher tendency to think of this behavior in a positive light.
For a while there, it seemed like we’d beaten digital piracy. At the very least, piracy statistics were looking more positive. How wrong we were!
Convenience is a key reason for people taking the illegal route when hunting their favorite shows or movies. Most pirates say they don’t really want to visit the best pirate movie sites, but the fragmentation of content across competing streaming services forces them to. If you love both Game of Thrones and The Grand Tour, for example, you’ll need to sign up for multiple services. That’s annoying, but more importantly, it can get expensive.
Andy Chatterley’s advice is perhaps the wisest. The CEO of MUSO says we have to stop thinking of this audience as the traditional internet pirate in our imagination. The reality is completely different from the fantasy. There’s a large demand, which streaming companies have spent years ignoring.
According to Chatterley, the statistics on media piracy show that companies will lose their long-term battle with pirates if they fail to adapt:
“It’s important that the content industries embrace the trends emerging from this data, not only in strategic content protection, but also in understanding the profile of the piracy ‘consumer’ for better business insight and monetizing these audiences,” said MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley.
How common is online piracy?
MUSO, a company that tracks piracy trends, found there were over 300 billion visits to pirate sites in 2017 alone.
How much money is lost each year due to piracy?
Globally, the annual revenue losses from digital piracy are between $40 and $97.1 billion in the movie industry and between $39.3 and $95.4 in the television industry.
Where is piracy most common?
MUSO analyzed the number of visits per country for 2017 (in billions):
- United States: 27.9
- Russia: 20.6
- India: 17.0
- Brazil: 12.7
- Turkey: 11.1
- Japan: 10.6
- France: 10.5
- Indonesia: 10.4
- Germany: 10.2
- United Kingdom: 9.0
Is torrenting still popular?
Yes, mainly due to the saturation of the streaming market, which has resulted in consumers turning to piracy again.
Does piracy hurt the economy?
Yes, it leads to billions of dollars in global revenue losses, costing the US content creation industries alone between $29.2 and $71 billion each year. Additionally, about 70,000 jobs US jobs are lost per year due to music piracy.
How much money does the film industry lose to piracy?
The movie industry globally loses between $40 and $97.1 billion in revenue due to piracy.
What are the effects of piracy?
Piracy can affect the global economy and the real market value of any individual product. It can be considered a criminal or federal offense and be sanctioned. And, perhaps worst of all, pirated content is frequently used to spread malware. Pirated software can result in the corruption or loss of data. Further personal dangers include identity theft, personal liability for criminal activity, and financial loss due to lawsuits or fraud.
How much music is pirated each year?
The latest piracy statistics show that over 1.2 billion songs get illegally downloaded each year.
Can you go to jail for downloading music?
Yes, the distribution of copyrighted materials is punishable by law. Penalties include fines of up to $150,000 per file or up to five years in jail.