For close to 20 years, rightsholders have tried to stem the tide of mainstream Internet piracy. Yet despite increasingly powerful enforcement tools, infringement continues on a grand scale.
While the problem is global, rightsholder groups often zoom in on their home turf, to see how the fight is progressing locally. Covering Denmark, the Rights Alliance Data Report 2017 paints a fairly pessimistic picture.
Published this week, the industry study – which uses SimilarWeb and MarkMonitor data – finds that Danes visited 2,000 leading pirate sites 596 million times in 2017. That represents a 67% increase over the 356 million visits to unlicensed platforms made by citizens during 2016.
The report notes that, at least in part, this explosive growth can be attributed to mobile-compatible sites and services, which make it easier than ever to consume illicit content on the move, as well as at home.
In a sea of unauthorized streaming sites, Rights Alliance highlights one platform above all the others as a particularly bad influence in 2017 – 123movies (also known as GoMovies and GoStream, among others).
“The popularity of this service rose sharply in 2017 from 40 million visits in 2016 to 175 million visits in 2017 – an increase of 337 percent, of which most of the traffic originates from mobile devices,” the report notes.
123movies recently announced its closure but before that the platform was subjected to web-blocking in several jurisdictions.
Rights Alliance says that Denmark has one of the most effective blocking systems in the world but that still doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from consuming pirate content from sites that aren’t yet blocked.
“Traffic to infringing sites is overwhelming, and therefore blocking a few sites merely takes the top of the illegal activities,” Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.
“Blocking is effective by stopping 75% of traffic to blocked sites but certainly, an upscaled effort is necessary.”
Rights Alliance also views the promotion of legal services as crucial to its anti-piracy strategy so when people visit a blocked site, they’re also directed towards legitimate platforms.
“That is why we are working at the moment with Denmark’s Ministry of Culture and ISPs on a campaign ‘Share With Care 2′ which promotes legal services e.g. by offering a search function for legal services which will be placed in combination with the signs that are put on blocked websites,” the anti-piracy group notes.
But even with such measures in place, the thirst for unlicensed content is great. In 2017 alone, 500 of the most popular films and TV shows were downloaded from P2P networks like BitTorrent more than 15 million times from Danish IP addresses, that’s up from 11.9 million in 2016.
Given the dramatic rise in visits to pirate sites overall, the suggestion is that plenty of consumers are still getting through. Rights Alliance says that the number of people being restricted is also hampered by people who don’t use their ISP’s DNS service, which is the method used to block sites in Denmark.
Additionally, interest in VPNs and similar anonymization and bypass-capable technologies is on the increase. Between 3.5% and 5% of Danish Internet users currently use a VPN, a number that’s expected to go up. Furthermore, Rights Alliance reports greater interest in “closed” pirate communities.
“The data is based on closed [BitTorrent] networks. We also address the challenges with private communities on Facebook and other [social media] platforms,” Fredenslund explains.
“Due to the closed doors of these platforms it is not possible for us to say anything precisely about the amount of infringing activities there. However, we receive an increasing number of notices from our members who discover that their products are distributed illegally and also we do an increased monitoring of these platforms.”
But while more established technologies such as torrents and regular web-streaming continue in considerable volumes, newer IPTV-style services accessible via apps and dedicated platforms are also gaining traction.
“The volume of visitors to these services’ websites has been sharply rising in 2017 – an increase of 84 percent from January to December,” Rights Alliance notes.
“Even though the number of visitors does not say anything about actual consumption, as users usually only visit pages one time to download the program, the number gives an indication that the interest in IPTV is increasing.”
To combat this growth market, Rights Alliance says it wants to establish web-blockades against sites hosting the software applications.
Also on the up are visits to platforms offering live sports illegally. In 2017, Danish IP addresses made 2.96 million visits to these services, corresponding to almost 250,000 visits per month and representing an annual increase of 28%.
Rights Alliance informs TF that in future a ‘live’ blocking mechanism similar to the one used by the Premier League in the UK could be deployed in Denmark.
“We already have a dynamic blocking system, and we see an increasing demand for illegal TV products, so this could be a natural next step,” Fredenslund explains.
Another small but perhaps significant detail is how users are accessing pirate sites. According to the report, large volumes of people are now visiting platforms directly, with more than 50% doing so in preference to referrals from search engines such as Google.
In terms of deterrence, the Rights Alliance report sticks to the tried-and-tested approaches seen so often in the anti-piracy arena.
Firstly, the group notes that it’s increasingly encountering people who are paying for legal services such as Netflix and Spotify so believe that allows them to grab something extra from a pirate site. However, in common with similar organizations globally, the group counters that pirate sites can serve malware or have other nefarious business interests behind the scenes, so people should stay away.
Whether significant volumes will heed this advice will remain to be seen but if a 67% increase last year is any predictor of the future, piracy is here to stay – and then some. Rights Alliance says it is ready for the challenge but will need some assistance to achieve its goals.
“As it is evident from the traffic data, criminal activities are not something that we, private companies (right holders in cooperation with ISPs), can handle alone,” Fredenslund says.
“Therefore, we are very pleased that DK Government recently announced that the IP taskforce which was set down as a trial period has now been made permanent. In that regard it is important and necessary that the police will also obtain the authority to handle blocking of massively infringing websites. Police do not have the authority to carry out blocking as it is today.”
The full report is available here (Danish, pdf)