Three years ago, Danish law enforcement carried out a series of raids and arrests, effectively dismantling several popular torrent trackers.
Such statements can be dangerous since pirates can be quite resilient, but there is no doubt that the law enforcement actions and subsequence convictions left a mark. So does that mean online piracy lost its appeal too? According to a recent survey, that isn’t the case.
Study: Pirates are Stubborn
The Danish Chamber of Commerce conducts a bi-annual study to track the piracy habits of locals. The most recent results for 2022 were just released and show that illegal streaming and downloading remain prevalent.
Roughly a third of the respondents (33%) admit to having downloaded or streamed something in the past and 15% did so over the past year. The last figure is up from 12% during the previous survey in 2020, and in 2018 it was only 10%.
These figures suggest that, if anything, the number of people who download or stream pirated content is increasing. It should be noted, however, that in the most recent version, people between the ages of 15 and 17 were included too, while earlier samples started at 18 years.
Age certainly matters when it comes to online piracy. Younger people typically pirate more and that’s also reflected in the Danish survey.
56% of Respondents Have Piracy Experience
More than half (56%) of the 15-29 year-olds admit they have downloaded or streamed pirated content in the past. For the 30-39 year-olds, this figure is still relatively high at 52%, but in the higher 50-74 year category, it drops to just 14%.
Younger Danes don’t just pirate more than their older counterparts, piracy prevalence also grows within the group. In 2020, fewer young Danes said they had downloaded or streamed pirated content.
There are also substantial differences between men and women. Men are twice as likely to have pirated something over the past year than women. For some categories, the difference is even more pronounced. For example, men are five times more likely to pirate music.
In recent years, the authorities have managed to crack down on local file-sharing communities but that ‘distribution’ role now seems to have shifted to social media platforms.
“In the last two years, police have handed out more [file-sharing] sanctions and investigated more in the area. However, the consequence has been that Danish pirates have moved their illegal behavior on the internet to a new platform, social media,” the survey notes.
Of the 15% who admit to having pirated something over the past year, more than half used social media. YouTube is the most cited piracy gateway, followed by Facebook, TikTok, messenger services, Instagram, and Snapchat. As expected, the use of social media is most prevalent in the youngest age cohort.
Commenting on these findings, Rights Alliance director Maria Fredenslund calls on social media platforms to take more responsibility, or else.
“Now that the police’s [Special Crime Unit] has stopped the dedicated Danish file-sharing services, it is a real shame that illegal consumption is moving to legal social media,” Fredenslund says.
“This calls for increased efforts from these platforms both in terms of informing users and stopping the distribution of illegal content. It requires the platforms to take an active role, and if there are platforms that do not live up to that responsibility, it may be necessary to involve the authorities.”
You Wouldn’t Steal…
Casper Klynge, Deputy Director of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, notes that streaming piracy presents a huge problem. He believes that it deserves more attention from the authorities, as the unbridled ‘stealing’ threatens the production of future content.
“Streaming digital content without paying for it is basically the same as walking past a store and grabbing items to take home without paying for them,” Klynge says.
This isn’t the first time that piracy is compared to stealing. Interestingly, however, the Chamber of Commerce study shows that many people do see a difference between piracy and shoplifting.
Of all people who participated in the survey, 89% believe that it’s unacceptable to steal candy from a store, while ‘only’ 63% see sharing digital content without permission from rightsholders as unacceptable.