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Are you watching Pirates of the Caribbean legally -- or is it a pirated version?
Are you sure? By some estimates, a quarter of today’s internet traffic is copyright-infringed media and intellectual properties being used and consumed illegally.
If you’re reading this site, you’re probably more likely to not only know exactly where your copy of a movie came from, but you’re also confident that it’s not a pirated version. Some consumers, on the other hand, may not realize that the movies they’re streaming or downloading are stolen goods or that the host sites where they obtained them are illegal operations. In many other cases, of course, people know full well that the way they acquired certain music or movies wasn’t legal. And then you have people who share files they’ve acquired -- both legally and illegally -- with their friends. Since file sharing doesn’t sound like a crime, and they’re not immediately apprehended or handcuffed like criminals, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. And anyway, everyone’s doing it.
There are roughly 150 million active users using BitTorrent, the world’s premier protocol for peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing over the public internet. While BitTorrent users aren’t necessarily dealing in copyright-infringed content, this is a platform that lets them do it for free.
With broadband service, people can access big movie files and even stream them online courtesy of pirate sites. One infamous rogue site was megaupload.com, a Hong Kong-based online service that facilitated illegal file sharing and viewing of movies, TV shows, and other media. When the FBI took the site down in January 2012, it seized $42 million worth of assets from the owner and prevented further access by the site’s 180 million registered users.
There are huge profits in content piracy, with pirate sites and services pocketing revenues from advertising, pay-per-view fees, and subscriptions. Since pirate sites don’t pay to produce the content, they can charge less for it compared to the same content distributed via rightful channels -- or they can charge nothing for it at all but generate revenue by selling ads on their sites. Lamenting they can’t compete with free content, movie studios and record labels stress that content piracy threatens profits, jobs, creativity, and brand sanctity.
When asked to put a dollar value on losses from content piracy, industry experts say it’s difficult to do for many reasons. Not every illegal download or stream is a lost sale. New pirates are marauding internet waters every day, and piracy is a rampant problem impacting every aspect of today’s legitimate creative industries.
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