TV & Film Piracy

Movie Piracy Explodes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(NTD News – August 24, 2021 – Leo Li reports) (9:40 in)

As the COVID-19 Delta variant takes hold worldwide, illegal movie downloads are also on the rampage. Hesitant to return to theaters, people are copying movies at home as the film industry stands by with little that they can do. Millions of would-be movie theater patrons have been downloading top films like “Godzilla versus Kong,” “The Suicide Squad” and “Black Widow” from illegal filesharing sites, which heavily costs the industry in lost ticket and streaming sales.

MUSO CEO Andrew Chatterley reports that they’ve seen a close to 76 percent increase in piracy. “From the beginning of July 2020 to the end of July 2021, we tracked 16.5 billion visits to piracy sites, just from the U.S. alone,” said Chatterley. The U.S. leads the world in illegal movie downloads, followed by Russia, China and India. According to filesharing site TorrentFreak, the most frequently downloaded movies last week were “Snake Eyes,” “The Green Knight” and “The Suicide Squad.”

Because of the pandemic, a lot of movies have gone straight to streaming on demand. This has caused spikes in illegal downloads of movies the very same day they are legally available on digital platforms to paying consumers. Typically, an illegal download of a movie isn’t available until after its theatrical release, once it’s available for home entertainment.

Responding to the increased risk of movie piracy, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) states that “theatrical exclusivity is the way forward.” They cite Black Widow’s strong previews and opening day earnings as leading to a collapse on its second weekend. However, it also partly blamed the simultaneous piracy.  

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) reports that piracy could have a global cost of $2.3 trillion by 2022. However, creators say that they can’t do much to stop it. Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, says it’s a “whack-a-mole problem… When you litigate or attack one node or one problem area of torrenting, it pops up somewhere else.”  

While the pandemic continues, with the new Delta variant keeping many moviegoers at home, film studios will likely continue to have simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases. Disney is experimenting with their new superhero film, “Shang-Chi.” It will be exclusively in theaters for 45 days.

View the entire NTD news story.

Andrew Chatterley, CEO of piracy data firm MUSO

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