Coronavirus lockdown could result in surge of film, video piracy with the mushrooming of new illegal sites

The latest search trends and surveys from popular tracking platforms suggest that there's an unprecedented surge in the movie and video piracy.

Surendhar MK April 14, 2020 08:01:19 IST
Coronavirus lockdown could result in surge of film, video piracy with the mushrooming of new illegal sites

With theatres shut and the entire nation under a lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, the digital media has been rapidly witnessing a lot of developments on all fronts.

Major OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar and MX Player, to name a few, have been fiercely working on procuring new content and pulling out all stops to penetrate the cinephiles in the tier-II and tier-III towns and cities in India's lucrative entertainment market. However, the latest search trends and surveys from popular tracking platforms suggest that there's an unprecedented surge in the movie and video piracy, the biggest menace threatening the film business worldwide.

Firstpost got in touch with stakeholders in the industry to assess the impact of piracy during the pandemic and how popular pirated platforms such as Popcorn Time, EuroStreaming, Altadefinizione, Stremio, Tamilrockers, and Tamilgun are luring movie buffs by hosting all the latest releases across languages and with renovated web pages.

Sharath, CEO and Founder of Mass Bunk, a popular Chennai-based anti-piracy firm, tells Firstpost, "There's a sudden rise in pirated sites with a lot of unknown platforms catering to viewers' interest by downloading the illegal content from famous portals like Tamilrockers and then broadcasting to their audiences. The mushrooming of these new pirated websites need to be removed quickly by the Internet Service Providers to tackle the menace of piracy. While everyone is gung-ho about the rise of the OTTs, they should also be wary of movie piracy, which has become easier for miscreants."

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Representational Image.

Data tracking firm Muso, which analyses billions of piracy infringements worldwide, says there is a staggering amount of demand for movie piracy now. "On 7 January, when health officials announced they had identified the coronavirus , demand for Steven Soderbergh's Hollywood thriller Contagion had increased to 546 visits. But by  30 January, when the coronavirus was declared a global emergency, visits to streaming sites for Contagion increased to 30,418 on that single day alone. The average daily visits for Contagion increased by an astonishing 5609 percent in January," says the latest report from Muso, which tracked nearly 11.2 billion visits to pirated sites from moviegoers in February alone.

Trade analyst Trinath says the onus is always on the audiences when it comes to eradicating movie and video piracy. "I have seen a lot of cinephiles who don't even know that they are pirating the content when they stumble upon a link to stream their favourite movies. This is a looming threat to the entertainment business since piracy spreads faster because all everyone needs are internet data. With telecom companies offering good data plans to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, people will find it enticing to know that they can catch all the latest movies which they missed to watch in theatres on their mobile phones or personal computers for free of cost."

A popular Tamil film producer, on the condition of anonymity, says, "The upcoming months have become uncertain for everyone. With mounting interest rates on finances, producers of small and medium budget films can actually take the risk of selling their movies for direct-to-digital release if they get a lucrative deal that covers all costs. I understand that movies premiered on digital platforms get pirated very easily, but there's no other go for small-time producers who are struggling to get their projects to see the light of day."

While Hollywood studios are quietly warming up to straight-to-VOD releases, Indian production companies have not jumped on the bandwagon yet. "Searches for popular local sites such as Guardaserie, Filmpertutti, Altadefinizione, CB01, and Eurostreaming, all skyrocketed over the past few days in Italy. All of these sites are among the top pirate sites in the country, where local pirate sites traditionally overshadow international ones," says a report in TorrentFreak.

According to data measured by I Know What You Download, the worldwide bit torrent download estimates show a clear increase from 6 March to 6 April. "They started off by hovering around 12 million daily recorded downloads and went up to 16 million a month later, which is a 33 percent increase."

Popular Hollywood films like Bad Boys For Life, Bloodshot, Onward and The Gentlemen have bypassed the traditional 90-day window between theatrical and streaming release to arrive on online platforms to attract viewers in home confinement. However, they have all been featured on BitTorrent's most pirated films of the week in the last few days.

While stringent law enforcement is needed to curb piracy, it's now become imperative for studios, music labels and all copyright owners to collaborate with anti-piracy firms to remove the infringing files permanently before it penetrates everywhere and gets passed on as links on WhatsApp, Telegram and other platforms.

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