Digital piracy remains a problem for the entertainment business, but it’s disproportionately hurting the film and TV industries more than music and is more of a problem outside of North America.
A new report by Netnames titled “Sizing the Piracy Universe” and commissioned by NBCUniversal shows that bandwidth stemming from infringing content has increased 159.3% — from 3,690 petabytes to 9,567 petabytes — between 2010 and 2012 in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The figure represents 23.8% of all residential and commercial Internet users in the three regions.
BitTorrent is a popular protocol for engaging in digital piracy. Infringing use of BitTorrent accounted for 12.4% of all bandwidth in North America in the first half of 2012.
But BitTorrent is just one avenue for piracy. Netnames estimates the entire infringing universe in January comprised 432 million unduplicated users, with 327 million in the aforementioned three regions. Nearly 113 million users visited video streaming sites during the sample period, while cyber lockers had 229 million users. Such peer-to-peer (P2P) networks as eDonkey, Ares, Gnutella and Usenet had another 83.2 million.
If these numbers seem frightening, keep two things in mind. First, movie piracy accounts for more bandwidth than music piracy. The average file size of a popular film at BitTorrent was 1,187 megabytes, according to the report. An album of high-quality MP3s might have a size range of 60-80 MB-roughly 5%-7% the size of the film file.
In addition, movies — and TV — account for more of the pirated content available on BitTorrent than that available online. In Netnames’ sample of 12,500 torrents, the big three — film, pornography and TV — accounted for 79% of all torrents, while music accounted for just 7.6%.
The high number of available torrents, plus the far larger size of film and TV files, helps explain why video accounts for an outsized share of infringing broadband traffic.
Second, music piracy — especially in the United States — has been reduced in recent years. Since 2008, a greater percentage of U.S. Internet users have paid for downloads and/or streams than those who have used P2P or a cyber locker. In 2006, the share of infringing downloaders topped the share of paying consumers by about five percentage points-19% to 14% — according to NPD Group. In 2012, the share of infringers had dropped to about 13% while paying customers stood at 30%.