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40+ Piracy Statistics, Facts, and Trends

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Captain Jack Sparrow might need an expensive ship to pirate the high seas, but the digital space has lowered the bar for the average user. This opened the floodgates of music, video, software, books, and other forms of data piracy.

But with the rise of streaming platforms, prosecution of large torrent website admins, and enforcement of DMCAs, is piracy still on the rise?

We’ve collected data that has passed through a strict editorial process over 100+ research hours to bring you the most relevant piracy stats.

Top 6 Piracy Statistics (Editor’s Pick)

  • Piracy websites gathered 82 billion visits from Q1 – Q3 2021.
  • 52.3% of global film pirate website users preferred to stream content in 2021.
  • 30% of respondents to a 2021 study listened to pirated music.
  • Minecraft approximated over 58,000 monthly searches on piracy sites in 2022.
  • Manga was the most popularly pirated content in the publishing space.
  • Piracy websites and apps generated over $1.3 billion in annual revenue in 2021 alone.

Infographic

top 6 piracy statistics
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General Piracy Statistics

1. “Game of Thrones” was the most pirated TV show in 2022.

The show averaged over 8,500 monthly searches on piracy sites in 2022, despite ending in 2019. It was followed by Euphoria, with 7,960 monthly searches, and Friends, with 5,060 monthly searches.

Pirated TV Show Monthly Searches
Game of Thrones 8,560
Euphoria 7,960
Friends 5,060
Family Guy 4,870
Attack on Titan 4,450
Chicago Fire 4,310
Peaky Blinders 3,700
The Office 3,660
The Walking Dead 3,450
Breaking Bad 3,190

2. Global piracy demand hit 3.7 billion between Q1 – Q3 2021.

This shows that over 3 in 5 consumers (61.5%) are actively accessing pirated content, while about 3 in 10 (28.6%) are searching for pirated materials.

3. Piracy websites gathered 82 billion visits from Q1 – Q3 2021.

These numbers indicate piracy in television and film markets alone. 

It climbs to over 132 billion after accounting for books, music, and software piracy.

4. 73.5% of pirate traffic chose web downloads as a preferred file delivery method.

In 2021, only 24.5% of traffic opted for public torrents, while most of the remaining 2% chose private torrents instead.

5. Piracy websites got a 15.2% traffic boost between 2020 to 2021.

By 2021, TV piracy accounted for just over half, and music piracy saw its first surge since 2017.

6. 1 in 12 ads on piracy websites is of low quality and risky to users.

Sponsored content accounted for 43% of ads on piracy websites in 2021, followed by other brand’s content (27%) and adult content (17%). Here is the total breakdown:

Piracy Websites Ad Type Prevalence
Sponsored content 43%
Other brand’s content 27%
Adult content 17%
Fraud and malware 8%
Major brands' content (Fortune 500 companies) 4%
Unidentified ads 2%

7. In 2021, over 5 in 10 ads on piracy apps were other brands’ content.

Not-so-major brands accounted for 54% of all ads served on piracy apps, trending higher than piracy websites. In second place was major brands’ content, taking 24% of the pie. Rounding up the top three was fraud & malware and unidentifiable ads, tying with 11% apiece.

8. Pirated games and software helped spread malware to over 3.2 million Windows devices.

A 2021 discovery showed that 1.2 terabytes of data had already been stolen from these devices between 2018 and 2020 alone. As of the discovery, 22% of the 2 billion cookies in the hacked database were still active.

9. More users downloaded pirated files than streamed them in 2022.

53.9% of piracy website traffic got their content via unlicensed streaming sites, while 46.1% downloaded the pirated content.

10. Publishing and software pirates preferred to download (not stream) files in 2022.

Due to the nature of the files involved, publishing and software pirates can not stream (e.g books and Microsoft Office files) but must download.

When considering pirated content that can both be streamed and downloaded (e.g movies, TV shows, and music), only the music piracy market saw more downloads than streams in 2022.

Piracy Statistics by Demographics

11. The United States had the highest number of piracy visits in 2021.

Q1 – Q3 2021 data showed that the United States accounted for over 13.5 billion of all piracy website visits in the timeframe. Russia, in second place with over 7.2 billion visits, managed just over half of the US’s figures. India came in third with roughly 6.5 billion user visits to piracy websites in the reporting timeframe.

12. 63% of pirated music in the US came via stream-ripping websites.

2021 data shows that the USA is third on the music piracy global ranking, but it takes the cake for most usage of stream-rippers.

13. Indians were likelier to download pirated films than stream them in 2021.

Pirated film downloads accounted for over 57% of film piracy website consumption in India. In contrast, 70% of the US film piracy traffic preferred streaming content on the piracy website.

14. 52.3% of global film pirate website users preferred to stream content in 2021.

Only 23.5% used a web download to get the film off the website, while 22.4% chose to consume the content on a public torrent network.

global pirate website users stream content
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15. About 10% of UK gamers illegally obtained (pirated) a video game in 2022.

Of these, 30% got the game via link sites, 19% of gamers got their preferred titles on ROM sites, and another 14% copied their friend’s game.

Music Piracy Statistics

16. Music pirates generated over 10 billion global visits to piracy websites by Q3 2021.

Reporting data from Q1 – Q3 2021 shows 10.8 billion music piracy website visits, representing 3.21 visits per user on the internet. In this timeframe, the most traffic came from India, followed by Iran and the United States in second and third, respectively.

17. Music piracy decreased by 65% between 2017 – 2021.

In comparison, music piracy increased by 2.18% in 2020Granular data shows an 18.6% jump in music piracy when isolating Q4 2021 and Q4 2022 (year-on-year) alone.

18. Stream-ripping websites accounted for almost 4 in 10 music piracy websites in 2021.

That is a 33.9% increase in the presence of such websites from 2020, showing growing popularity.

19. 30% of respondents to a 2021 study listened to pirated music.

Likewise, 38% of 16–24-year-olds admitted to doing the same, making them the largest age group to obtain music illegally.

20. In 2021, almost 3 in 10 pirated music consumers used stream-ripping websites.

16–24-year-olds dominated this section again, with 35% having used stream-ripping websites to illegally access music.

21. In 2021, 14% of unlicensed music listeners used a shady social media platform to get their music.

Of these, 23% also uploaded and shared music, while 18% downloaded some music files off such platforms. Another 21% of users were there to seek out music leaks.

22. 68% of Indians streamed music illegally in 2021.

Conversely, another 67% used a paid streaming service, representing a growth from 38% in 2019.

Video Piracy Statistics

23. 21% of US consumers pirate shows exclusively in 2023.

These consumers do not pirate any movies at all. Likewise, 24% of US consumers would pirate a film while it is still showing in cinemas.

us content piracy
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24. Marvel Studios’ movies dominated the top 10 most pirated movies of 2022.

Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: No Way Home was the most pirated movie in 2022, with 83,390 monthly searches for the title on piracy websites. It was followed by Avengers: Endgame in second, with 3,210 monthly searches on these piracy websites.

In fourth place was Avengers: Infinity War (2,660 searches), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (1,860 searches) in 6th place.

25. Television industry pirates accounted for 67 billion piracy website visits by Q3 2021.

Between January and September 2021, the publishing industry pirates generated 30 billion visits to piracy sites, while the film industry came in third (14.5 billion visits).

26. Over 95% of TV piracy consumers preferred to stream pirated content in 2021.

Public torrents and web downloads shared the rest of the pie (4.5%) with almost no representation for private torrents.

27. Film piracy showed the highest year-on-year increase from 2021 to 2022.

Comparing the first eight months in 2021 to the same timeframe in 2022, film piracy surged by 49.1%. However, TV content remained the most pirated content in the first eight months of 2022, accounting for 46.6% of all traffic to piracy websites.

Video Game Piracy Statistics

28. Minecraft approximated over 58,000 monthly searches on piracy sites in 2022.

This made it the most popular game among digital pirates, ahead of Roblox (21,190 monthly searches) and GTA (16,280 searches) in 2022 alone.

The table below shows the top 10 most-searched-for games on piracy websites in 2022.

Pirated Game Average Monthly Searches
Minecraft 58,010
Roblox 21,190
GTA 16,280
Spider-Man 11,610
Among Us 9,490
Far Cry 4,330
Five Nights at Freddy's 4,230
Resident Evil Village 2,940
Assassins Creed Valhalla 2,140
God of War 1,980

29. In 2022, 3 in 10 UK gamers claimed saving money was their primary motivation to pirate games.

15% of these gamers said they did it to boycott the brand publishing the game, while another 13% did it for fun and to impress their friends.

30. 11% of adult UK gamers said they pirated the content because they did not know it was illegal.

The 2022 report also shows that 15% of UK gamers who had never pirated content before considered the option.

Publishing Piracy Statistics

31. Manga was the most popularly pirated content in the publishing space.

Manga pirates accounted for 63% of traffic to publishing piracy sites in 2021.

60% of the top 10 publishing piracy websites had a manga focus that year.

32. 23.7% of all piracy in 2021 was publishing piracy.

This put it ahead of the same period’s film, music, and software piracy segments.

33. Publishing piracy visits increased by almost half between 2020 – 2021.

A 49% jump from 2020 resulted in 42 billion+ visits to publishing piracy sites in 2021 alone. The United States and Russia were the top two regions sending user traffic to these websites.

publishing piracy site visit by us and russia from 2020 to 2021
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Software Piracy Statistics

34. Photoshop was the most popular software by search on piracy websites.

Data from 2022 shows that the Adobe-owned photo editing software gathered 49,970 monthly searches across popular piracy websitesIt was joined in the top ten by numerous Microsoft Office apps and Microsoft Office software licenses.

35. Software pirates were the fifth-highest visitors of piracy websites in 2021.

These pirates accounted for 9 billion visits, led by users from China.

Russia and the United States rounded up the top three in this department.

36. Software piracy increased by 13.1% between 2020 and 2021.

The 2021 data shows the highest visits to software piracy platforms since 2017.

37. Chinese users sent the most user traffic to software piracy websites in 2021.

This was followed by the United States and Russia, two nations dominating almost every other form of piracy.

38. 73.5% of software pirates preferred downloading their files over the web in 2021.

In contrast, 24.5% of users opted for public torrent options to get the pirated software they sought.

Piracy Cost & Financials Statistics

39. Piracy websites and apps generated over $1.3 billion in annual revenue in 2021 alone.

Piracy websites earned more of the share (over $1.08 billion), while piracy apps picked up over $258 million.

40. The top five piracy websites averaged $18.3 million in revenue from ads in 2021.

In contrast, the top five piracy apps averaged $27.6 million in ad revenue.

41. Amazon accounted for 41% of all ads by major brands on piracy apps in 2021.

However, there has been a 78% decline in the e-commerce giant’s ads showing up on piracy websites (not apps) since 2021.

42. Almost 3 in 10 major brand ads on piracy apps were by Facebook.

Facebook accounted for 27% of major brand advertising on piracy apps in 2021, followed by Google with 5% of the share. Vimeo and Start.io rounded up the top five with 3% and 2% ad share on piracy apps, respectively.

brand ads on piracy apps statistic
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43. Adskeeper served ads on 27% of all piracy websites in 2021.

In contrast, Google CDN served 38% of ads on piracy apps, the most in that category. Likewise, Google Ad tech also served 13% of the ads on the piracy apps in the same timeframe. That made Google the largest provider of ads to piracy apps in 2021.

Ready to Set Sail?

Digital piracy continues to soar, but that should not keep publishers, movie studios, creatives, and other content creators from shipping their products.

Billions of dollars continue to be spent on anti-piracy measures, and new technology (such as blockchain) is stepping up to curb the excesses of some piracy websites/apps.

While you prepare to launch, check these intriguing torrenting statistics, too, to get a full angle on the piracy market.

References:
  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/3493/media-piracy/
  2. https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/studies/piracy-report/
  3. https://www.akamai.com/resources/state-of-the-internet/soti-security-pirates-in-the-outfield
  4. https://f.hubspotusercontent40.net/hubfs/6347345/2021%20MUSO%20Discover%20Piracy%20by%20Industry%20Data%20Review.pdf
  5. https://www.digitalcitizensalliance.org/clientuploads/directory/Reports/Breaking-Bads-Report.pdf
  6. https://nordlocker.com/blog/malware-case-study/
  7. https://advanced-television.com/2022/10/11/survey-video-game-piracy-set-to-rise/
  8. https://www.ifpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/IFPI-Engaging-with-Music-report.pdf
  9. https://www.muso.com/magazine/piracy-data-overview-january-2022-to-august-2022
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