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More TV shows in 2021 meant a massive spike in illegal downloads

I only torrent re-runs of Little House on the Prairie.

pirating steal a car commercial
Image: Federation Against Copyright Theft

There tends to be more streaming content than we can consume. That’s not even mentioning the number of streaming services we would have to pay for in order to consume that content. That being said, pirating (ie: stealing) streaming content is not something that everyone is comfortable doing.

Yet, according to Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report, there were 132 billion visits to pirate sites worldwide, in the first nine months of 2021 alone.

With a 16% increase in pirate site traffic compared to the first nine months of 2020, when we were all in the heart of the pandemic, that 132 billion is also more than 2020 as a whole. Part of that is probably because production stalled on a lot of television and movies, with new seasons and films finally hitting in 2021 after experiencing a delay.

That theory is mildly proven by the fact that about 50% of all pirate site traffic (about 67 billion visits) was pointed at downloading television programs.

top 15 piracy locations
The top 15 locations for pirating website visits (Image: Akamai)

That isn’t much of a surprise as most of the content we are being bombarded with comes from some streaming service we don’t subscribe to. Between Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, HBO Max, and all the traditional television outlets like cable and broadcast, there were over 500 original shows airing in 2021.

That would be the most ever aired in one year. Impossible to keep up with and, for most of us, equally impossible to subscribe to.

Publishing was next up with 30 billion visits followed by movies (14.5 billion), music (10.8 billion), and software (9 billion). The United States naturally led the way with 13 billion visits, followed by other internet-capable countries such as Russia, India, China, and Brazil.

For a moment it seemed like torrenting content was on the way out, as there was a momentary crackdown on providers, but with mirror sites and constant server shuffling, it’s nearly impossible for governments to throw enough resources at it to end it.

rick and morty television show
Image: Adult Swim

Well, it shouldn’t come as too much surprise that the most downloaded TV shows were Loki, Wandavision, and Rick and Morty.

Two of those are Disney properties and if you’ve been a Disney+ subscriber since its inception, you can probably agree that outside of the Marvel and Star Wars content, it’s full of things we’ve seen before. As for Rick and Morty, pirating is probably what Rick would expect of his fan base.

most pirated films and shows in 2021
Image: Akamai

Concerning the top films, Godzilla vs. Kong, Black Widow, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League led the pack of pirated films of 2021. Together, they make one mediocre movie. Resorting to illegally downloading them instead of paying to see them in a COVID-packed theater kind of makes sense.

Akamai notes some caveats to this report. First, the stats don’t include dedicated piracy boxes and IPTV offerings. Second, many people illegally downloading television shows already subscribe to a service that provides that show under the cost umbrella.

Rather, they are downloading programs to likely save to a personal collection (say, a hard drive full of Marvel programs). For other pirates around the world, they are simply left with little choice. They cannot access certain streaming services in certain regions, whether they want to pay or not.

While there are plenty of legal discussions to be had about pirating content, it hasn’t seemed to deter uploaders and downloaders from taking advantage of the technology.

If you are one of the 132 billion visits, be sure you are using a good VPN so you don’t get one of those spicy letters from your ISP. Also, don’t waste your time downloading that Justice League movie. You are better off huffing lead paint.

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