The Annual Privacy Report from MUSO, a company specializing in anti-piracy solutions, showed that more than 190 billion visits were made to privacy sites in 2018 alone. From that number, more than 5 billion visits come from the United States. The report revealed just how extensive online piracy has become as a business.
Traditional piracy methods such as full P2P downloads are now being replaced by more modern ones like live streaming. People are shying away from downloads and are opting for streaming for convenience. Piracy sites offer full movies and pirated content as streaming; some start to charge users for premium features or display ads to earn revenue.
Piracy is turning into a big business. While service providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime are keeping their service packages affordable in the hope of fighting piracy, millions of users still opt for piracy sites. It is not all bad though. Piracy sites have actually introduced some interesting developments to streaming technology.
User Experience at the Center
Netflix incorporates AI and other advanced technologies to deliver the best user experience. The more time you spend on Netflix, the more accurate the recommendations you get on the Home screen. AI automatically learns about the movies and TV series you watch on the platform and tailors your Home screen accordingly.
The incorporation of AI has become a solution for delivering a better user experience, but it is not the only technology implemented by the platform and other streaming services. Netflix also actively develops its streaming algorithm, the compression codec, and the user interface of its platform, hoping to elevate the online streaming experience to a whole new level.
Interestingly, Netflix and other premium streaming service providers are not the only ones optimizing their platforms. Online piracy sites are also taking the same route. Ads used to be intrusive; they are now more strategically placed to keep users happy and revenue coming smoothly. The codec used to stream full movies has also been refined.
Let’s not forget that piracy sites are backed by many engineers and developers. They have the skills and experience to tinker with codecs and even develop new ones for their users. Some streaming sites have even gone as far as experimenting with codec configurations to maximize video quality while keeping bandwidth usage at a minimum.
Piracy as a Big Business
The fact that piracy sites can earn revenue from ads separates them from premium streaming services. There is a definite subscription fatigue in the market. Users subscribe to virtually everything they use today, from streaming services to apps like the Adobe CC suite. Subscribing isn’t something that users enjoy doing.
Subscription as a business model also has its flaws in the eyes of users. It is easy to subscribe to services that you don’t really need because the subscription cost is very low. However, before long you start spending a fortune on services you don’t use, and when you realize about the unused subscriptions, the rest of the subscriptions come under scrutiny as well.
Some piracy sites do offer paid plans, but they still allow users to stream content – with ads – even when they are not subscribers. This is different to the business model of premium streaming services; you have to be a subscriber to go past the thumbnails and description. Yes, you do get a free trial, but each user can only enjoy one trial period.
As an added bonus, piracy sites now offer the live or semi-live streaming of TV channels, including premium ones. The lack of a monthly subscription, combined with good user experience and additional features like live TV, make piracy sites more appealing to general users. This is how piracy turns into a big business for piracy site operators.
It’s Not All Bad
Piracy has the potential to harm the creative industry, so much so that many big studios are now involved in fights against content piracy. A lot of sites were shut down, only for new ones to pop up in a matter of days – or even hours. Piracy sites are also becoming friendlier to users. When a piracy site is blocked, you can still use a proxy server or a VPN to access them.
Objectively, piracy sites produce more than negative impacts to the creative industry. The codecs developed for piracy sites are available as open-source programs, and they are often significantly better than commercial codecs used by premium services. Other developers can learn from these optimizations and incorporate them into their own software.
In fact, piracy sites are an inseparable part of innovation in the streaming industry and the tech landscape as a whole. Bringing free-to-air TV channels to more users online, offering access to royalty-free movies, and streaming positive content also makes independent streaming sites more legitimate than perceived. It is safe to conclude that piracy is not always as easy to define in black and white terms.