Online piracy: Europeans more likely to watch pirated TV shows and sports

20/09/2023
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Nieuwsbeest Partners

The downward trend in piracy of recent years has online piracy reversed, a new survey by EUIPO shows
TV programmes are the most pirated in the EU, accounting for almost half of all piracy
Illegal offers of live events, such as streaming of sports matches, are also on the rise
The Netherlands scores higher than the EU average for piracy of live broadcast sports events
online piracy of anime and manga also increased in 2022
A report published today by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) showed that digital piracy increased by 3.3% by 2022. The increase was largely due to illegal copying of TV programmes, series, films and manga publications.

This is one of the key findings of the study "Online Copyright Infringement in the European Union, Films, Music, Publications, Software and TV, 2017-2022".

The report shows that piracy, measured as the number of times per month a given internet user accesses pirated content, had slowly declined over the years until the trend reversed in 2021.

Illegally copied content: what is popular in Europe?

The trend reversal was mainly due to the growth in pirated TV programmes, which accounted for almost half (48%) of all access to infringing sites in the EU in 2022. Other types of pirated content included publications (28%), films (11%), software (7%) and music (6%).

A 15% increase in pirated TV programmes was observed in 2022. The genres most frequently pirated are TV programmes and series and films on demand, followed by anime productions (series and films) and livestreams of sports events and dedicated sports channels.

Illegal access to publications, the second largest source of piracy after TV programmes, has also increased since January 2021. The leading genre in this category is manga comic books, followed at some distance by audiobooks and e-books.

Despite a significant drop during the first months of the corona pandemic, illegal copying of films increased slightly in 2021 and 2022. According to an earlier EUIPO survey at the title level, most online piracy films are Hollywood blockbusters.

Illegal copying of software, such as games and software for mobile devices, also grew slowly but steadily. While all categories showed an increase last year, illegal copying of music decreased and remained a modest phenomenon.

By the end of 2022, every internet user in the EU had accessed copyright-infringing content websites about 10 times a month on average. However, there are significant differences between member states. Estonia and Latvia are in the lead with the highest piracy rates: almost 25 accesses per user per month. The lowest figures were observed in Germany, Italy and Poland, with around 7.5 accesses.

EUIPO executive director Christian Archambeau:

The problem of copyright infringement in the digital age remains a very serious concern and a direct threat to the creative sector in Europe. The new survey shows that much remains to be done to tackle piracy. It is difficult to stop this phenomenon as piracy is constantly evolving technologically. Therefore, it is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of piracy so that effective policies and measures can be adopted to help curb it.

The rise of live sporting events and streaming

According to the survey, streaming is now the most popular method of accessing online piracy TV content. 58% of piracy in the EU takes place via streaming and 32% via downloads.

The survey also examines for the first time illegal access to live broadcast sporting events. This type of piracy showed an upward trend in 2021 and 2022, with a 30% increase in just one year. In some countries, such as France and Spain, this type of content accounts for more than a third (34 %) of all piracy.

Moreover, piracy of live events peaks in April and September-October every year, while the figures are lowest in June-July. This possibly stems from the respective match periods and summer breaks in the main European football leagues.

In this context, in May 2023, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on combating online piracy of sports and other live events, which aims to combat the unauthorised retransmission of such events. EUIPO is working with the European Commission and interested parties to monitor the impact of this Recommendation.

Regarding the factors that may influence the use of pirated content in the EU, the report points out that economic and social factors - such as GDP per capita, income inequality or the proportion of young people in the population - may influence piracy. The growing legal offer also contributes to reducing illegal copying of music, films and TV.

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