Movie & Music Piracy Acceptable to a Growing Number of U.S. Households

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Nearly a quarter of all U.S. households believe that piracy is justified because music and movies should be available to anyone for free. Research by Parks Associates reveals that this percentage has increased significantly in recent years. According to some experts and insiders, this can in part be explained by the fragmented streaming landscape.

pirate-flagThere is little doubt that video and music streaming services have taken the Internet by storm over the past decade.

An entire “on-demand” generation is growing up, and the streaming business model is generating billions of dollars in revenue.

Competing With Piracy

This change was spurred on by piracy. When Spotify and Netflix started their streaming services, they openly positioned themselves as piracy competitors. And indeed, in the early years, many casual pirates were drawn to these platforms.

More recently, this early selling point has started to degrade, especially when it comes to video streaming services, of which there are many. Instead of offering an attractively broad selection of content to subscribers, exclusive releases are now the preferred tools to draw customers in.

The video streaming wars have reached a point where many people can no longer afford to pay for everything they want to see. Ironically, this drives them back to pirate sites where they occasionally watch content for free.

More U.S. Households Believe Piracy is Justified

New survey results released by Parks Associates suggest that the attitudes of U.S. consumers towards piracy have started to shift as well. The data are released as a promotion for the Future of Video conference. While there’s not much detail on the methodology, the results are quite clear.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of all U.S. households agree that piracy is acceptable because movies and music should be available to everyone for free. This is a considerable increase on the position three years ago, when only 14% strongly agreed with this statement.

Similar increases are observed for other piracy justifications, including the argument that movie and music companies make a lot of money, and the belief that no one ever gets into trouble for pirating content.


Support for password sharing also appears to have increased, as roughly one in five households are okay with unlicensed media usage, as long as someone else is paying for the service.

The survey isn’t exactly an academic study and from the data presented it’s not clear how many households are actively pirating content, versus simply using someone else’s password to access a legal service. However, the strong results suggest that people’s attitudes are changing.

Experts See Room for Improvement

The results of the survey will be discussed at the Future of Video conference, where many participants will emphasize the need or advertise options for stricter enforcement. This includes streaming video provider and protection service Synamedia.

“Piracy’s impact has gone from bad to worse, and it’s hitting content owners and service providers where it hurts: in their pockets. The good news is there is technology and intelligence available to keep content secure and stop them in their tracks,” Steve Epstein from Synamedia says.

At the same time, there are also companies that recognize the fragmentation problem. This includes video streaming aggregator Reelgood, which tries to bring order to the streaming chaos.

“We’ve found that consumers pirate NOT because they want to but because they’re often forced to by an increasingly complex and fragmented streaming landscape that was built for companies, not users,” Tim Cutting of Reelgood notes.

Sebastian Kramer, SVP Product Management at NAGRA, also mentions fragmentation as one of the key problems the entertainment industry faces today.

“With an increasingly fragmented content landscape as content owners range direct-to-consumer services, piracy is soaring. Ultimately, consumers are looking for content, so we all need to focus on the best, aggregated approaches to allow this to happen,” Kramer says.

In large part, these quotes come from people who have a significant stake in the anti-piracy ecosystem. However, it is clear that the media industry isn’t oblivious to the ‘streaming fatigue’ of the broader public. And seeing it discussed openly at a conference, shows that the problem is taken seriously.


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