Digital piracy increases by 3.3% in 2022, says EUIPO report

For the first time in years, piracy levels rose in 2022, largely driven by TV shows, series, films and manga publications

Downward trend in online piracy of previous years has been reversed, new EUIPO study finds Ilona Baha

The downward trend in levels of digital piracy was reversed in 2022, according to a new report from the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The report ‘Online Copyright Infringement in the European Union, Films, Music, Publications, Software and TV, 2017-2022’ notes that piracy had slowly declined over the years until 2021 when the trend was reversed, increasing by 3.3% in 2022.

This is the third study published by the EUIPO on the evolution of online copyright infringements in the EU member states and the UK. The study examines the number of accesses to pirated films, TV, music, software and publications from January 2017 to December 2022. Piracy is measured in the report as the number of monthly accesses per internet user to illegal content.

Pirated TV shows, series, films and manga publications are largely behind the increase.

The growth in TV piracy represents nearly half (48%) of all accesses to infringing sites in the EU in 2022. The most pirated genres are television shows and series and on-demand movies, followed by anime productions (series and films) and live streams of sports events and dedicated sports channels.

Illegal access to publications, the second most important source of piracy after television, has also increased since January 2021, with manga comic books as the top genre in this category, followed at some distance by audio books and e-books.

Sporting events

The study also analyses, for the first time, the illegal access to live sports events. This type of piracy shows an upward trend in 2021 and 2022, with a 30% increase in only one year. In some countries such as France and Spain, this type of content accounts for more than a third (34%) of the total illegal accesses.

The European Commission adopted a recommendation on combating online piracy of sports and other live events in May 2023, which aims to stop unauthorised retransmissions of such events. The EUIPO is working together with the European Commission and interested parties to monitor the impact of the recommendation.

According to the study, streaming has become the most popular method to access illicit TV content – 58% of piracy in the EU occurs via streaming and 32% through download.

Particular attention was paid to trends during the Covid-19 crisis. Different patterns for 2020 and 2021 were found, which were probably associated with the pandemic; the models indicate that film and TV piracy (although not music) declined during the pandemic. Piracy of films and music is still decreasing, while piracy of software and publications showed a significant increase in 2022.

The report also notes that on average, each internet user in the EU accessed websites offering copyright-infringing content about 10 times per month at the end of 2022. There is significant variation among member states. The countries with the highest piracy rates are Estonia and Latvia, with almost 25 accesses per user per month, while the lowest rates are found in Germany, Italy and Poland with around 7.5 accesses.

The executive director of the EUIPO, Christian Archambeau, said: “Copyright infringement in the digital era remains a very serious concern and a direct threat to the creative industries in Europe.

“The new study shows that there is still much work to do to tackle piracy. Stopping this phenomenon is complex as piracy is continuously evolving with technology. This is why understanding the underlying mechanisms of piracy is essential to adopt effective policies and measures that contribute to reducing it.”

The basic data for this study comes from tracking traffic to piracy websites, sourced from MUSO, which provided data on such activity for the period 2017 to 2022. Additional data was sourced from official databases such as EUROSTAT, and from the EUIPO IP Perception studies to better understand the mechanisms behind piracy.

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