Digital piracy refers to the illegal copying or distribution of copyrighted material via the Internet. It negatively affects the creative industries, including film, TV, publishing, music and gaming.
Online piracy has an economic impact, as it affects government revenue streams and puts you – the consumer – at risk of financial loss. It also opens up security risks to consumers such as ID theft or exposing children to inappropriate content.
How does it work?
Take the example of TV piracy.
You see an offer: more than 6,500 channels sourced from most major pay TV operators in the world, plus a library of 2,000 movies for less than 100 dollars or euros per year – what’s not to like? And the payment methods look legitimate too − it must be ok!
Pirate operator sites offer access to audiovisual content which has been stolen from a pay TV operator. This can be accessed via illicit devices or apps. Legal devices such as smart TVs and ipads may also carry illicit apps.
Buying your content from these sites deprives the creative industries, pay TV companies and tax authorities of revenues to which they are legitimately entitled. Their losses run into billions of euros every year – meaning that less is spent on creating new content and jobs in the arts.
No guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth
The advertised payment methods are often not what they seem, with your money being diverted to pirates’ bank accounts using sophisticated money laundering techniques. Do you really want them to have your credit card details?
You could find that you suddenly stop receiving the service. Pay TV companies, rights holders and their technology providers devote substantial resources to disrupting pirate services. And anti-piracy associations work with payment providers to interrupt the flow of money to the pirates. When they shut down the pirate services, you can access no content and have no way of getting your money back.
New forms of access
Illegal digital content is now more accessible than ever before, via websites, apps and social media.
Consumers can access such content through streaming and linking sites, peer-to-peer sites, torrent sites and cyberlockers amongst others.
In the case of torrent sites, individuals share files through a decentralized, peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing network. This type of file sharing allows users to exchange files without uploading them to a server.
A cyberlocker, also known as cloud storage, is a third-party online service that provides file-sharing and file-storing services for various types of media files and data.
Research has shown that pirate sites present a distinct security risk for consumers. Amongst key risks, they may contain inappropriate content in the case of minors or malware that could infect your computer. Online criminals may also hijack your personal details and share with other criminals, leading to fraud or personal identity theft.
How to spot a pirate site
How do you identify a pirate service? Be wary of any site offering a huge amount of content for a low price (or for free)
Many content providers offer only their own packages in the territories for which they have rights. So go to the company’s website and see what you can buy legitimately.
Check the prices as well – legitimate content will usually be more expensive than a pirate service, but you receive a quality, reliable service with good customer service to support you if you have problems.
Links to other serious crimes
You may wonder, what’s the harm in this? No one gets hurt. But the criminals behind these pirate sites can be part of organized crime groups who use the proceeds to fund serious crimes, and who engage in fraud and money laundering.
So by watching that cheap movie or bargain box set, you could be contributing to a range of crimes you could not imagine.
Help fight piracy by obtaining your content legally. Don’t contribute to organized crime.