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Move Over, Torrents — Pirates Now Prefer Streaming

The whole world has made a rapid transition from owning video content to simply streaming it, so why should Internet pirates be any different? A new report suggests that they’re not. While the scurvy online sea dogs of yore preferred torrenting files and plundering P2P sites, nowadays, they simply stream illicit content, like a free version of Netflix that might also give you malware.

Information comes by way of the MUSO Global Film and TV Piracy Market Insight Report 2016. MUSO (the acronym doesn’t appear to stand for anything) is an analytics and software solutions company that focuses its efforts on anti-piracy. Rather than ideologically oppose the practice, the company seems to view piracy as an economic issue: Companies stand to lose money from it, which means that there are opportunities for middlemen to step in and address the problem.

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In 2015, MUSO analyzed 14,000 websites hosting pirated films and TV shows all around the world. The company estimates that these sites receive 141 billion annual visits from over 200 million devices, suggesting that the issue is hardly isolated to a few digital hoarders with massive private servers.

MUSO drew on data from about 78 billion piracy website visits, and discovered that almost 74 percent of them were to streaming sites. More than 12 percent of this traffic was from the United States, with France, Germany and the UK all providing similarly high numbers. One interesting thing to note, however, is that 72 percent of these visits were from computers, meaning that illicit streaming on mobile devices, streaming players and game consoles hasn’t really caught on. Yet.

Torrenting is still the second-most popular way to download TV shows and movies, but its primacy has taken a dive in recent years. Only 17 percent of the visits MUSO analyzed were to torrent sites, and that number decreased from almost 19 percent at the end of 2014. Like streaming sites, most users were coming from computers rather than mobiles.

Direct downloads were the least popular option of all, accounting for only 9 percent of visits. Interestingly, the popularity of illicit mobile downloads grew by 5 percent in 2015, but the overall category improved by only 0.2 percent. Downloading one episode at a time is truly a lost art.

What this means for everyday users is hard to categorize; you either pirate content, or you don’t. If you do, you already know how you like to get it. Just bear in mind, ye scalawags, that companies like MUSO are analyzing what you do, and big corporations may be eager to deploy countermeasures in the near future.