It would come as little surprise to you if I said that subscription levels for the likes of Netflix have soared during these unprecedented times, also thanks to the unexpected success of Tiger King in pretty much every corner of the globe. Yet, whilst Netflix has soared through the roof, so too has the amount of piracy.
Tracking firm MUBO recorded a 31% increase in film piracy levels from February to March, with 46.2m visits in March and 35m in February. Daily averages rose by over a quarter of a million too, from 1.21m in February to 1.49m in March. What's more of a stark contrast is the jump in visits from the last week in February to the last week in March. MUSO recorded around 8m visits to illegal streaming & torrenting sites during the last week of February and around 11.7m in the last week of March, marking a 42.5% increase.
As the lockdown has gone on, it's clear that people are anxious to see the latest releases that they otherwise would be out at the cinema seeing. Popular media player Kodi has seen a quiet resurgence recently, with the emergence of illicit add-ons such as Exodus bringing illegal streams of your favourite new films together, as opposed to scouring them all like Putlocker and 123Movies. Either way, it's still a dodgy and illegal thing to do, but it's intriguing to know that after a while away, the dark side of Kodi is back up and running. On its own, Kodi is a free media player that as a standalone piece of kit works pretty well. It's all the repositories full of addons such as Exodus (formerly Genesis) and Navi-X or Phoenix that have given Kodi a bad name. Most of those have been shut down over the course of the last few years, but recently, Kodi seems to have put the pirates back on their feet.
It's not just streaming that's seen a large rise. The dark side of torrenting has also seen a major increase in traffic too. On its own, much like Kodi, torrenting isn't a bad thing. In fact, peer-to-peer file sharing just lightens the load for everyone involved and, if there's enough seeds, can offer better download speeds than a direct download. This is because some websites put caps on the speed of downloads and means that they will obviously take longer with lower speeds. Content delivery network Cloudflare, a service used by torrent services for distributing content, reported a 30% spike in traffic from northern Italy compared to earlier in the year. Services such as uTorrent and BitTorrent, when combined with hosting sites such as MagnetDL and the infamous Pirate Bay, are what give torrenting its bad name. If you wanted to go and download Tiger King without a Netflix subscription or the Grand Tour without Amazon Prime, then illegal torrenting allows you to do so. When the Grand Tour launched back in 2016 on Amazon Prime, it quickly became one of the most downloaded shows in the history of torrenting.
Other than films and TV shows however, there's not been much else that's seen an increase. Since there's been no sport on, levels of visits to illegal streaming sites have plummeted, and are in fact down over 50% from February to March, as per MUBO again. Despite this, there was an overall decrease of 2% to all torrent & streaming sites, which portrays that whilst sports piracy has fallen like a stone, that of TV shows and illegal films has shot up by the same level. On such matters, MUBO stated that : “This unprecedented increase in visits to online film piracy sites in the last week of March reveals that as more countries enforced lockdown and required citizens to self-isolate, demand for content via piracy grew exponentially."
Just as a disclaimer, this article isn't intended to endorse piracy in any way, and instead designed to offer an insight into the scope of illegal activity taking place online. The figures probably are larger, especially due to the VPNs that can be used to mask locations and create encrypted tunnels for data to be hidden behind. If you're going to watch films and TV, do it legally and properly. Whilst illegal torrenting may be tempting, it's never something that should be considered over legal options like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Yet, with a myriad of subscription services now causing the average household's expenses to skyrocket, some people are turning to it to get their favourite shows. Each to their own of course.