Digital piracy and illegal streaming services are costing the US economy about $30 billion each year in lost revenue and siphoning as many as 250,000 jobs, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing estimates from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center.
The global impact of pirate streaming is about $71 billion annually, the report said.
The figures highlight one of the reasons Hollywood is struggling to profit from steaming services like Disney+, Peacock and Paramount+.
Pirate platforms such as myflixer.to and projectfreetv.space, which use software to copy films and television shows in seconds and then air the programs themselves, pull in about $2 billion each year from ads and subscriptions, Bloomberg said.
In all, there are about 130 subscription piracy sites operating in the US, The Motion Picture Association says, and these spurious services can achieve profit margins of up to 90%.
Usage of pirate sites has soared since 2020 to more than 140 billion visits from about 105 billion prior to the pandemic, the report said. “Some of these pirate websites have gotten more daily visits than some of the top 10 legitimate sites,” says Karyn Temple, the MPA’s general counsel, told Bloomberg. “That really shows how prolific they are.”
The top three piracy sites each have about 2 million users paying $5 to $10 per month for movies, TV and live sports. The numbers are expected to shoot up as legit services like Disney+ and Netflix continue to raise their subscription prices and crack down on password sharing, with some channels invitation only and others easy to find through basic searches or through ads on social media sites like Facebook and TikTok. Many users are unaware the sites are airing pirated programming.
The report pointed to one man, Bill Omar Carrasquillo of Philadelphia, who at his peak earned $1.5 million a month on his illicit streaming service, and became famous for flashing high-priced cars and other luxuries on his YouTube channel. Carrasquillo is now serving a five-and-a-half year prison sentence after getting hauled in by the FBI.
Russian crime rings are also in on the scam, sending people into theaters with camcorders to record films than is then uploaded with links to online casinos they also operate.
The number of sites has shrunk since the MPA formed The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, an enforcement task force that has helped shut down more than 1100 sites operated in North America since 2018. But internationally, pirate sites have proliferated, increasing 39% for films and 9$ for TV shows in 2022, the report said, most common in India and Russia but also seen in the UK, Canada and elsewhere.
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