Winter arrived in the seven kingdoms and illegal streamers were out in full force. According to network HBO, a record 16.1 million viewers watched the Game of Thrones season premiere within 24 hours of its release - up 50 percent from the previous season. But it also faces a problem given the rise of illegal streaming. According to yougov.co.uk just shy of five million people in the UK use pirated TV streaming services. Their study suggests that 10% of the population (around 4.9 million adults) currently have access to illicit streaming devices using platforms such as so called Kodi boxes, adapted Amazon Fire TV sticks and illegal streaming apps on smartphones and tablets.
TV and movie piracy has many people taking sides. Legally speaking, unlawfully streaming television programmes is a violation of intellectual property rights, or “piracy”. But do streamers consider this to be morally wrong? There is a perception that it is a “victimless crime” amongst those who oppose piracy laws and are commonly known as “fundamentalist libertarians”.
As pressure builds to enforce copyright law online, some online campaign groups have started to argue that any attempt to block pirate sites that provide content for the illicit streaming devices will "break the internet".
On the other side of the wall, there are those that point out that there is no question that illicit streaming is unlawful. This camp thinks that illegal downloading is a serious issue and causes great harm to those working in the creative industries, such as those involved in the making of Game of Thrones.
It’s not all dragons, white walkers and Lannisters though, since 2013, piracy has significantly fallen, a drop that has been attributed to the rise of appropriate streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify replacing illegal downloads.
The UK Intellectual Property Office claims there has been a 10% increase in the number of Britons using legal services, since 2013. The survey also highlighted that 62% of all UK internet users have downloaded or streamed music, TV shows, films, computer software, videogames or e-books.
That's up from 56% in 2013!
The true cost of pirated content on the film and entertainment industry is rather uncertain. The meteoric rise of streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix may be having a chilling effect on illegal copyright infringement according to new research.
Kantar Media’s Online Copyright Infringement Tracker, commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office, has shown that over half (52%) of internet users consuming content online now use streaming services. While downloading content is becoming comparatively less popular (39%).
Respondents who stream cited convenience and cost as two of the main reasons for doing so. Spotify, the music streaming giant, has seen a 3% rise in new UK users in just 12 months.
The rise of streaming has coincided with a small but significant drop in online copyright infringement. For the first time, those consuming content from exclusively legal sources has risen to 44%, a 3% increase since the end of 2015. Despite this positive trend, online infringement continues to have a major impact on the creative industries, with music and film hit hardest.
My hope is that piracy is on its way out and I know that work continues to reduce the supply of illicit streaming devices, alongside industry led awareness campaigns. I am also confident that further, convenient alternatives for accessing legal content will continue to increase and point consumers in the right direction so we can all benefit from increased jobs in the creative industries and a growing economy.