New Report Examines the Size of the Piracy Universe

On Tuesday, Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars spoke at a panel discussion on “The Size and Shape of Online Piracy,” hosted by The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). The event was held in conjunction with the release of a 100 page report on the “shape and size of the piracy universe” prepared by the Piracy Analysis team at NetNames. Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) offered opening remarks. Aistars was joined by panel moderator Robert Atkinson (President, ITIF), report author David Price (Head of Piracy Intelligence, NetNames), and Jonathan Zuck (President, The Association for Competitive Technologies),.

Sen. Hatch opened the event recalling with some nostaligia when “Lone Ranger” was filmed in his home state, but transitioned into the seriousness of online piracy’s growth, which the Size of Piracy report characterized as “tenacious and persistent.” Senator Whitehouse remarked that freeloading of content is affecting all of us now and will only continue to become a more complicated issue with the use of mobile devices to view pirated content.  

Sen. Whitehouse emphasized that good policy decisions come from good data, like that from NetName’s report. Their research showed that there were 432 million unique infringing internet users in January 2013 alone. Price highlighted during his presentation some of the recent trends in infringement such as the drop in cyberlocker usage that occurred after Megaupload was shut down by U.S. law enforcement. But at the same time, there has been a continued increase in BitTorrent infringement and video streaming. Interestingly, he noted that infringing video streaming as well as legitimate video streaming have both jumped significantly, possibly a sign of how viewers increasingly want to access the films and videos they want to watch.

Zuck moved the discussion toward mobile apps, which are relatively cheap to purchase, yet app creators have not been reaping the rewards of their success because of piracy. An important message he delivered is that many of the creators of these apps are ordinary people making personal investments and not big corporations. 

Aistars also emphasized the large number of creators who are not involved with major motion pictures, television shows, and music. She expressed the concerns of an author whose romance novels were, in her words, sold for, “less than the cost of a Happy Meal,” and yet her works were still being distributed throughout infringing websites. Aistars did bring to light positive developments in the industry toward addressing infringement from stakeholders such as ISPs, payment processors, and advertising networks. She closed with remarks on the need to work together to address the broad impact across communities. “We all rise and fall together in this area, if the burdens are unmanageable for creators in policing for infringement of their works they will be equally unmanageable for the network operators of goodwill in policing against infringement of copyrighted works.”