Akamai Piracy Paper Stresses Better Data, Collaboration

Ian Munford, director of industry strategy, marketing and solutions for Akamai, surveys the current piracy landscape, and sees a number of problems: the worldwide data around piracy coming from both content owners and vendors is incomplete; the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a huge jump in piracy, with no signs of increased mitigation; and the industry at large isn’t collaborating well enough to stop content theft.

All of that and more is covered in the new Akamai white paper “Inside the World of Video Pirates: How Do We Stop Them?” authored by Munford. Drawing on dozens of sources, the paper runs through the history of video piracy, new trends in internet piracy, the different mentalities of various content pirates, and what’s needed to put a dent in content theft.

“What really shocked me was the lack of consistent data sources,” Munford said of what surprised him most in his work on the paper. “It’s a fact that vendor statistics are generally skewed and limited.”

Without honest assessments of what’s being pirated, where the leaks are occurring, it’s nearly impossible to nail down exactly how much revenue is being lost, and what needs to change to fight the problem, he said. When the estimated cost of video piracy on the global film and TV industries ranges between $79.3 billion and $192.5 billion, it’s hard to determine just how bad the problem is, he added.

Another unreported cost of piracy the paper tackles is job losses. While most narratives concerning piracy focus on revenue loss, the paper extrapolates actual job losses to piracy, pointing instances where top-pirated TV series being canceled due to poor ratings, and distributors ceasing international channels in areas where piracy has hit them hard.

“There’s a palpable fear around job losses because of piracy, but little data,” Munford said. He added that signs beginning to emerge that piracy is impacting licensing as well, with sports being hardest hit.

Understanding the motivations behind piracy is crucial to the industry as well, the paper argues, with the narrative around piracy mostly being “they’re criminals, motivated by money, and will go after your assets [for profit],” Munford said. But he offers alternative motivations for many: “They do it because they can.”

“If you don’t understand the groups and their motivations to attack, how can you ever stop them?” he said.

The lockdowns have seen major increases in streaming, which is no surprise considering people being at home more. With that has come major jumps in piracy, up 50% and more in some countries, Munford said. “We’re all at home watching more video,” he said. “But is piracy increasing because more people are pirating, or are pirates pirating more? What will be interesting will be what happens six months from now. Declines or further resurgences in piracy?”

Munford makes no argument that piracy is going away … as long as content exists, piracy exists with it. However, with greater collaboration within the industry, piracy can be less of a problem than it is today, he added.

“As an industry, we need to have access to data that allows for more contextual analysis,” he said. “There needs to be inspection of the entire workflow, and organizations need to think about how they protect against a whole variety of threats in the value chain, including at the end in distribution.

“This is not a fight a single organization can win.”

To access to Akamai report, click here.