Piracy is a complicated and multi-faceted phenomenon. People who stream content illegally are seen as a direct threat by the entertainment industries, but many of these pirates have paid subscriptions as well.
Against this backdrop, Sarah Oh and fellow researchers from the Technology Policy Institute looked at the interplay between legal and illegal video consumption online. The main question they asked is whether pirate video consumption directly competes with legal viewing time.
The results, published in a paper titled “Do Pirated Video Streams Crowd Out Non-Pirated Video Streams?” show that this is indeed the case.
The findings are based on a massive dataset that includes 5.25 terabytes of online activity data from 19,764 American households who together own more than 468,612. This data, including raw Internet traffic from 2016 to 2017, was then used to create an economic analysis.
The sheer volume of the information is a goldmine that provides some unique insights. For example, it includes the time spent on viewing legal and pirated video per operating system. While it’s merely used as an instrumental variable by the researchers, it’s worth highlighting separately.
The data shows that Windows users watch the most pirated content of all, more than 2 minutes per hour on average. This is more than Mac and Android OS users, which are both still well above the average.
“Windows PC devices show higher proportions of time spent on pirate sites than devices with other types of operating systems,” the researchers write, adding that “most devices used for piracy are represented by a few top operating systems.”
The graph above shows that Linux users view significantly less pirated video. They fall below the average, with slightly more than half a minute of pirated streaming per hour. The viewing time goes down even further for other operating systems, including iOS, Xbox, Roku and others.
When looking at the time spent on legal video consumption platforms, other operating systems come out on top. The Linux-based Tizen OS is in the lead, followed by WebOS and Roku.
Although these are intriguing statistics, the main purpose of the research is to look at the link between time spent on legal and illegal video streaming. Specifically, if one competes with the other.
The article answers this question with a resounding ‘yes’. On average, the researchers found that more minutes spent on pirate streaming decreases the time spent on legal video sites including Amazon and Netflix.
While the overall effect is strong enough to hold up across all legal services, the effect is actually the opposite for YouTube. Watching more pirated video streams is linked to watching more content on YouTube.
One of the explanations for this finding, according to the researchers, could be that both are free forms of entertainment, which may appeal to a similar audience.
The overarching conclusion, however, is that time spent watching pirated videos directly competes with time spent on legal alternatives.
“Pirate sites compete with non-pirated streaming services for a growing share of time that American households spend each day watching online video,” the researchers conclude.
The raw data, based on the volume of files, suggests that for every extra minute on a pirate site people spend 3.5 fewer minutes on a legal streaming service. However, since pirate files generally are more compressed, a one-on-one tradeoff is seen as more likely.
“Because pirated video files are more compressed than non-pirated video files, often by a factor of four, and because pirated video is frequently downloaded in full and non-pirated video is streamed, we conclude that time spent watching pirated video displaces nearly the same amount of time spent watching over-the-top streaming apps,” the research concludes.
The full article titled “Do Pirated Video Streams Crowd Out Non-Pirated Video Streams? Evidence from Online Activity,” written by Sarah Oh, Scott Wallsten and Nathaniel Lovin, is available here.
Easy to install and use on set-top boxes, tablets and phones, these tools often provide a Popcorn-Time or Showbox-like experience, offering the latest movies and TV shows in a familiar Netflix-style interface. On the one hand, they’re popular with users but Hollywood studios and other content creators consider them a risk to their business that needs to be countered.
ApolloTV is a relatively recent addition to the growing market. Available for iOS and Android, the application gained a reasonable following and is featured in dozens of tutorials and YouTube video installation guides. At the time of writing, however, it seems highly unlikely that the project will continue.
Over the past several days, rumors began to circulate that ApolloTV would be shutting down. The whispers suggested that the application’s developer had been targeted by copyright holders and as a result, the app would be discontinued. Counter-rumors suggested that the developer simply wanted a way out so TorrentFreak approached ‘Sam’ directly to find out.
“I received a cease and desist from the Alliance 4 Creativity – the same people who took down Openload and Streamango – citing ApolloTV making available copyrighted works copied and hosted by unaffiliated third parties without permission from the copyright holder,” Sam informs us.
The claim seems reasonable given the circumstances. ApolloTV didn’t host any content of its own but did provide access to content hosted on third-party file-hosting platforms, a common feature among similar ‘scraper’-type applications.
As TF discovered, Sam made little to no effort to hide his identity so it appears that ACE had few difficulties tracking him down. However, while we reached him easily via email, ACE managed to discover his home address which enabled them to serve the cease-and-desist notice by hand.
“I was surprised that I actually received the cease and desist physically, in person (it was delivered by a court officer), at my home address,” he explains.
Sam says that he doesn’t have the time or the resources to fight a lawsuit and since ACE were very reasonable, he’ll be complying with their requests immediately. He doesn’t want to go into too many additional details but says that as part of the settlement, he will need to shut down the project’s Github page and hand over the Apollo domain to ACE.
At the time of writing, the official ApolloTV repository on Github has been taken down. ACE nor the MPA appear to have filed any official DMCA takedown requests with the developer platform so at this point things seem to be progressing quickly on a voluntary basis.
TorrentFreak sought comment from ACE on the reported action but, at the time of publishing, we were yet to receive a response.