Coronavirus sees massive surge in piracy, as lockdown leads people to search for free films and TV

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a major surge in online piracy, new figures have revealed, as billions of people around the world are forced to stay at home as part of containment measures.

Piracy tracking firm Muso registered more than 11 billion visits globally to illegal piracy sites in February, fuelled by a strict lockdown in China aimed at preventing the spread of the deadly virus.

Muso said its latest data “may well foreshadow a coming trend for global piracy” in March and April, since billions more people have been forced into lockdown. The firm told The Independent that figures for March will be available in mid-April.

“We are starting to see some interesting trends emerging that point to a rise in piracy activity in China during this period. Our data shows that film piracy visits increased by 89 per cent from 18 January to 26 January, the day after Chinese New Year and when the news of the pandemic was starting to spread globally,” Muso wrote in a blog post.

“Muso tracked 11.2 billion visits globally to piracy sites in February 2020, but with so many cinemas now closed globally and demand for content high, if Muso’s Chinese data is a barometer of piracy consumption to come then we would expect to see a continued rise in piracy activity for the rest of the world as more countries enforce covid-19 lockdowns.”

Globally, average daily torrent downloads from January to February increased significantly by 36 per cent. Since then, more than a third of the world’s population has been placed in lockdown as more countries follow China’s lead in fighting the outbreak.

Certain trends have already begun to emerge from the early data, notably in the choice of films people are choosing to watch. Contagion and Pandemic have both proven popular titles, experiencing more than double the usual streaming numbers.

Figures from other online platforms have shown that viewership has also increased across legitimate streaming sites in the first quarter of 2020.

Viewership on live-streaming website Twitch spiked by around 17 per cent compared to the previous quarter​, surpassing 3 billion hours watched for the first time.

Statistics compiled by streaming service Streamlabs revealed that hours-watched on YouTube Gaming Live, Facebook Gaming and Mixer also increased by between 4 to 15 per cent.

Separate research by analytics firm AppAnnie this week showed that the amount of time people spend on Android smartphones has shot up by almost a fifth in 2020.


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