We all know that if there is one place on earth that is not good for pirates then it is the UK.
The country’s government has passed several laws which have enforced some tough punishments on people who are found to engage in piracy activities.
Resultantly, the number of active pirates in the UK has steadily decreased in the last year or so.
And it makes sense.
If potentially, a single file upload can land you in prison for a period of ten years, then it is probably wise to stay away from uploading files on the internet while you’re in the UK.
Of course, you can continue to do the same if you aren’t in the UK.
Not that we’re encouraging piracy or something, but the law should differentiate between seasoned pirates and people who just want to share something with their friend.
Or may want to have a safe place where they can upload their documents, files or folders.
Of course, all of that isn’t what we want to talk about here.
We want to talk about the new threat that is steadily rising just like piracy did in the old days.
The Intellectual Property Office in the UK has come out with a report which says that the country’s copyright infringement levels have started to become stable.
With that said, says Intellectual Property Office of the UK, there is now a new threat to all copyright holder groups.
That threat is called illegal streaming.
And it presents a potentially much stiffer challenge than pirates ever did.
That’s probably because, the vast portion of copyright infringements that take place online, take place via torrent sites.
In torrent sites, there are users who are uploaders and then there are users who are downloaders.
In streaming sites, you don’t have any of that.
There is no uploader and no downloader.
People set up a website and put media on it.
Other people visit the website, watch an episode or two of their favorite TV show via streaming, close the website and then go home/office.
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That sounds rather easy, right?
Just log to a website, stream your content, watch it, enjoy it and then close the website to finish the process.
And perhaps this is the reason why there are so many people who are turning to streaming from torrenting.
According to a report published by the Intellectual Property Office, there are around seven million people in the UK who are consuming illegal content on the internet by one mean or another.
Moreover, the report doesn’t specifically talk about the level of copyrighted material these people are consuming.
It just says, some level of copyright infringing content or more.
Looking at the piracy scene in the UK, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that more and more people are turning to stream-ripping and illegal streaming.
The popularity of both methods of streaming copyrighted content on the internet is increasing.
And will continue to increase for the foreseeable future as more and more people start to rely on cloud services for their needs rather than their local storage devices.
There is an interesting point to note in this, however:
The actual number of people who access exclusively free copyrighted content has reached a new low point.
In fact, the Intellectual Property Office report says that it is at an all time low.
Piracy services have worked round the clock for many years now.
And the more popularity these “services” receive, the more it hurts the copyright holders groups.
Now it has reached a stage where the copyright holders group have decided that they need to take some action.
And not some run-of-the-mill action.
They need to take aggressive action against all piracy platforms.
Especially the ones that work online and reach millions of people all around the globe.
It is less about earning more money and more about staying competitive.
In short, if legitimate content creators want to compete with the pirates and streaming platforms, then they will have to become more competitive.
The only way to do that is to shut down these online piracy services and platforms.
Other than that, you can count these content creators out of the game.
Perhaps for all time.
Movie and music industries didn’t always pay enough respect to the piracy industry.
But now when everybody knows the scale of the piracy industry, more and more copyright holder groups are starting to take note.
Initially, the movie and the music industry did take steps to guard against pirates but those didn’t count as real steps.
In other words, those steps were slow.
They didn’t make any sort of an impact.
Now, the movie and music industry has truly pushed itself off the starting mark.
Moreover, both industries have significantly changed their position on piracy in recent years.
Now, we have witnessed the rise of high-quality and premium streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify.
They are so popular that both streaming platforms have become household names.
Of course, there are those people who don’t listen to music and don’t’ watch movies.
But they are not part of the equation as of now.
Currently. We’re only talking about people who actually watch movies and listen to music.
These are the ones that content creators want to protect from piracy.
Because they are paid customers.
And nobody likes to lose paid customers no matter how rich or big they are.
Netflix and Spotify have come up with some clever techniques in order to make sure that they always have an increasing number of paying customers.
And that is the reason why both companies are doing so well.
In fact, their services are so streamlined and convenient to use that even people who consumed illicit content in the past have signed up for them.
This is truly a massive change.
Many media outlets have identified this trend.
And none so more than the Intellectual Property Office in the UK, even though it is not a media outlet.
It came out with a press release the other day and highlighted this continuing trend:
More and more people are turning towards streaming services even if they once consumed illegal content on the internet for free.
And that is exactly what licensed streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify want,
The UK Intellectual Property Office representatives looked rather update.
At least that is what most media reports could understand from their tone.
The released IPO noted that Netflix and Spotify both had successfully come up with innovative streaming ideas.
And hence, both helped the UK to keep online copyright infringement activities stable in the country.
The IPO (Intellectual Property Office) said that the Online Copyright Infringement Tracker that the Intellectual Property Office commissioned had revealed that about fifteen percent of the internet users in the UK (which converted to around seven million people in the country) either downloaded or streamed material that infringed copyrights.
The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has regularly published its reports on the piracy scene in the UK.
And perhaps now it is finally able to attract the media attention it always wanted.
The latest version of the full tracking report is not the 7nth report in succession from the Intellectual Property Office.
Of course, officially, the Intellectual Property Office is yet to release the report but the UK government has given media outlets some nice sound bites.
And in doing so, the UK government has revealed some interesting statistics about the Intellectual Property Office’s report.
As mentioned before, the number of people who are infringing copyrighted material on the internet is around seven million at the moment.
But this is the same number that Intellectual Property Office estimated last year as well.
That means, no increase in the past 12 months in the number of active pirates.
Of course, those numbers can significantly change depending on how one defines a hardcore pirate and a casual pirate.
Right now, the Intellectual Property Office defines the hardcore pirate as someone:
Who consumes copyrighted content via exclusively illegal sources.
While if defines casual pirates, or infringers, as someone who:
does make use of illegal sources to consume copyrighted material on the internet but also uses legal sources sometimes.
This is where the Intellectual Property Office report says, things have changed.
The Intellectual Property Office report said that UK consumers accessed exclusively free content at an all time low now.
The report also noted that the number of users who are using legitimate streaming services is also going up.
It further said that Spotify had managed to increase its user base by a whopping seven percent in the last year alone.
Of course, these are all positive signs.
But that doesn’t mean that’s what they all are.
There are some concerning signs as well.
The UK government said that it had some concerns surrounding issues such as illicit streaming.
The government included both video and music copyrighted content infringement in its content.
No prizes for guessing that the government wanted to give private set-top boxes a prominent mention.
The government also labeled these set-top boxes are a threat to all the positive trends that Intellectual Property Office report mention.
Moreover, the Intellectual Property Office report said that devices such as illicit adapted set top boxes allowed users to illegally view and stream premium and copyrighted content on their TV sets.
Users viewed blockbuster movies along with all other forms of premium content via their set-top boxes.
And this phenomenon threatened to undermine all the recent positive progress.
The Intellectual Property Office report also said that about 13 percent of the online foreigner used streaming boxes that they could easily modify and adapt to view and stream illicit copyrighted content.
We’ll mention here again that the official Intellectual Property Office hasn’t published its report, officially, yet.
So, nobody can comment on the details that are presented in the report.
Hence, we can’t carry out any examination exercises.
However, note that the Intellectual Property Office did say that users could use these set-top boxes and adapt them to view illegal content.
So which devices is IPO pointing outwards?
We think that IPO is referencing devices such Amazon Firesticks.
There are many other examples as well but we won’t discuss those here.
Do take note that currently, the vast majority of Amazon Firestick users are using the device for completely legitimate reasons such as streaming content from licensed streaming websites.
The Intellectual Property Office also noted that it had started an IPTV consultation process.
And it was currently underway.
This consultation process would provide useful guidance on how it could deal with these devices that allow people to watch copyrighted content on the internet, in the future.
Media reports are expecting the UK government to publish its response sometime later in the summer.
Another issue that is high on the agenda is that off streaming ripping.
This form of streaming content has rocketed up the copyright infringement methods charts remarkably quickly.
What is stream ripping then?
It is basically a process where a user downloads unlicensed music content from streaming sources.
The user then keeps the downloaded music files on his/her hard drive or even a portable device.
The Intellectual Property Office along with the PRS has commissioned another separate report which deals only with Music.
That report recently revealed that about fifteen percent of online users had engaged in streaming ripping in one way or another in the past.
The report also pointed out that the use of techniques such as stream ripping had increased in the last couple of years.
Additionally, the Intellectual Property Office noted that traffic to stream ripping websites had increased by a stunning 141.3 percent between just 2014 and 2016.
The report said that in a recent survey that spanned over 9000 people in the UK, about 57 percent of UK adults claimed that they had indeed heard of stream ripping services.
Among those who claimed that they had used stream ripping services, the survey observed that most belonged to the male gender.
Moreover, these users also belonged to the ages of 16 to 34 years old.
The PRS report also managed to go into a bit more details.
It claimed that streaming ripping had attracted a massive following in the UK.
So much so that streaming ripping had become the most prevalent and indeed the fastest growing platform and/or form of music piracy in the country, the UK.
PRS, which is a music licensing outfit, also claimed that stream ripping accounted for about 70 percent of all music-specific copyright infringements.
These services included,
- Browser plug-ins
- Other types of standalone software applications
Each of the type of services mentioned above provided copyrighted content from several different sources.
Sometimes these sources included,
But, in an interesting twist, the survey found YouTube as the number one source of music stream ripping.
These services accounted for more than 74 services out of the total 80.
The survey also touched upon the question as to why did people stream ripped?
It also talked about specific motivations.
Interestingly, the survey found that the top reason for stream ripping was that some people considered stream ripping to be a form of honest piracy.
About 31 percent of the stream ripping users revealed that they only downloaded the music they had already owned.
These users also said that they used ripping services only when they wanted to obtain their previously licensed music in another format.