Music Piracy Shrinking as Online Piracy Grows


Look out Hollywood; online piracy is coming for you. Digital piracy is hurting the film and television industries more than music, and most of the problem is outside North America.

A new report by Netnames titled “Sizing the Piracy Universe” and commissioned by NBCUniversial shows that bandwidth stemming from infringing content has increased 159.3% – from 3,690 petabytes to 9,567 petabytes – between 2010 and 2012 in North America, Europe, and the Asian Pacific region. The figure is a representation of 23.8% of all residential and commercial Internet users in these three regions.

BitTorrent is just one path for piracy. Netnames estimates the whole infringing universe in January 2013 was comprised of 432 million users with 327 million in the above-mentioned three regions. Almost 113 million users visited video streaming web sites during the sample period, while cyber lockers had 229 million users. Such peer-to-peer (P2P) networks as eDonkey, Ares, Gnutella and Usenet had another 83.2 million.

Movie piracy accounts for more of the bandwidth than music piracy. The average file size of a popular film at BitTorrent was 1,187 megabytes, according to Netnames’ report. A popular album of high quality MP3s might have an estimated size range between 60-80 MB. That roughly equals out to be between 5 percent and 7 percent of the popular film’s file size.

Also, movies and TV account for more of the pirated content available on BitTorrent than that available online. In Netnames’ sample of 12,500 torrents, film, pornography, and TV accounted for 79% of all torrents. On the other hand, music accounted for only 7.6%.  This extraordinary number of available torrents, plus the much larger size of film and TV files, helps to explain why video accounts for a much loftier share of infringing broadband traffic.

Finally, music piracy in the United States has been reduced in recent years. Since 2008, a greater percentage of U.S. Internet users have paid for downloads and/or streams their music than those who have used P2P or a cyber locker. In 2006, the share of infringing downloaders exceeded the share of paying consumers by about five percentage points according to NPD Group. In 2012, the share of infringers had dropped to about 13% while paying customers stood at 30%. These reasons are why Hollywood should be worried about online piracy.