Consequences of Piracy

Living in the digital age comes with its unique challenges, especially amid times of uncertainty for global economies. As the cost of living pressures rise, it can certainly become tempting to skip subscription services altogether for cheaper, or even free, alternative access to premium content. This temptation is often bolstered by the erroneous view that content piracy is a harmless act.

However, streaming a live sports event or a movie online without paying for this licensed content is not only illegal, but has serious consequences that many do not consider – or may not be aware of – when deciding on the act. The most obvious consequences apply to those that steal and redistribute the content initially, but piracy carries a myriad of repercussions, for content owners, broadcasters, platform operators, wider supporting industries, and, by no means least, for those who actually watch pirated content.

Consequences for consumers

Many consumers that engage in streaming pirated content may be surprised to find out that they are putting themselves at risk, and we’re not just talking about legal consequences. More often than not, illegal streaming sites are riddled with malware that is downloaded to the watcher’s device. This malware is capable of accessing personal information at the click of a button, or through tracking keyboard inputs and web site behaviour, all without the user knowing. Therefore, you might think you are safely streaming a live football match, for example, but without knowing it, your device’s security can quickly become compromised and put your data into the hands of a hacker. According to Crime Stoppers, almost five million illegal streamers experienced a virus, fraud or personal data theft, and over one million had money stolen as a result of watching illegal streams. It is clear that the risk of watching illegal streams often far outweighs the benefits.

A more noticeable consequence that consumers can experience is the very poor quality of the content they are watching. Capture methods vary widely in their sophistication, and it is common for a pirated stream of a live sports match, for example, to have a poor resolution picture and low sound quality throughout. Streams often shut down due to bandwidth issues, or low quality of the provider, or when the stream is intercepted by anti-piracy agencies. The piggy-backing nature of illegal streaming means that streams are often lagging behind, meaning the viewer is not watching the game in real-time. This is a frustrating experience for any sports fan that can be easily avoided by watching content through legitimate channels.

Aside from putting your cybersecurity at risk to watch a poor-quality stream, the act of watching pirated content is illegal and those caught can face fines and imprisonment, the same way the pirates do. The only way to avoid these consequences entirely is to use officially licensed, trusted platforms and websites. Streaming services spend huge amounts of money and time to ensure content is of the best picture and sound quality, and they have measures in place to protect your personal information from bad actors. Cost is of course always an issue, but there are many websites (such as that can offer advice on where to find the content you want, legally, at the best price.

Consequences for content owners, broadcasters and operators

Another aspect that consumers might not consider – or might not consider to be important – is the impact piracy has on the owners, creators, and distributors of the content. Piracy has a significant impact on revenue, viewers, and reputation. 

Every time a viewer accesses a movie or TV series on an illegal streaming site, rather than an official, authenticated streaming platform (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+), they are unknowingly contributing to the loss of millions of pounds of revenue every year to the likes of grassroot and indie film productions. Streaming platforms provide a valuable resource for small businesses in the content production world, bringing in new talent to the creative sector and helping them be seen in a saturated market. With billions of views worldwide, pirate streaming sites are not only taking this revenue away, but forcing streaming platforms for both on-demand and live content to make up for the lost revenue by increasing the price of memberships. With the current financial climate, price increases could further drive consumers to illegal streaming sites, creating an endless, vicious cycle.

Unknown consequences

In some situations, consumers are purchasing content that they don’t even realise is not from an official source. Purchasing a Sky box or Amazon Fire stick from a friend may seem like a nice bargain, but the harsh reality is that it could be a fraudulent, unlicensed product. These products are sometimes convincing as they can be capable of providing higher quality content than unofficial content streamed online, as mentioned earlier. This is a negative consequence for both the consumer and the provider as the consumer believes they are paying for a licensed product but are receiving a pirated copy, and the provider will be losing out on revenue from the sale.

On the other hand, when the consumer is experiencing poor quality and believes they are viewing official content without knowing it’s an illegal product, it can negatively alter their perception of that brand. Complaints and poor reviews damage brand and reputation, potentially costing organisations, subscribers and revenue. In this way, piracy affects broadcasters and platform operators at all levels, and requires a proactive responsibility for content security from all stakeholders.

Consequences for pirates

Illegally accessing and redistributing content is a serious criminal offence and pirates that are caught can face charges. According to legal advisers Stuart Miller, convicted pirates in the UK could face a fine of £5,000 and even face imprisonment for five years. However, there have been examples of convicted pirates being charged as much as $585 million in the US. Penalties also apply to anyone that illegally downloads and redistributes a piece of content without licensing.  Simply put, video piracy is a crime, and anyone who indulges in it, whether facilitator or consumer, runs the risk of prosecution.

Video piracy is an ongoing problem that has consequences for anyone involved. Pirates that steal and redistribute content face prosecution and penalties, such as large fines and even imprisonment; viewers of illegal content run a similar risk, but also endanger their own cybersecurity, often to watch a sub-standard version of a film, TV show, or live event. And all of these activities ultimately impact the content owners, broadcasters, operators, creators and everyone who works alongside them, who can face a loss of revenue, reputation, and even jobs.

If you would like to learn more about our content security solutions to avoid the consequences outlined in this blog, talk to one of our content security and anti-piracy experts today.

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Simon Thomson, Senior Presales Consultant, Friend MTS People are increasingly looking at their household [...]

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