Software Piracy Statistics: The Not-So-Jolly Rogers Conquer the Internet
Updated: April 20,2022
With the rise of inexpensive movies, games, and music services, the talk about the prevalent piracy on the internet has calmed down. You might think that there’s no room for such kind of illegal reproduction any longer as people can get all kinds of content for a reasonable subscription price. However, various software piracy statistics paint an entirely different picture.
Despite the low prices of streaming services and regular discounts on software downloads, piracy still secures a foothold online, offering otherwise paid content for free. Suppose you wanted to watch The Mandalorian, The Witcher, and The Expanse. In that scenario, you’d need to subscribe to several streaming services, meaning that the cost of keeping up with each of your favorite shows would pile up fast.
However, numerous risks go hand in hand with pirating. Hopefully, by the time you read the latest pirating statistics, you’ll understand why you should avoid piracy at all costs. It’s only natural to want to find a way to save up some money, but pirating might be taking it too far.
Overview of Piracy-Related Visits per Region
Software piracy knows no borders, and the latest GO-Gulf report on regional visits to piracy websites only confirms it. As one might expect, at the top of this software piracy report’s list are regions with a greater number of developed countries:
|No.||Region||Percentage of visits|
European countries have hit the very top of the chart according to the European Union Intellectual Property Office as well. EUPO’s findings from 2019 show that 13.7 million people from across the EU have accessed pirated content.
In Asia, as 2017 software piracy statistics highlight, Indonesia and Thailand were among the countries with the highest pirated content, 65% and 54%, respectively. The University of Amsterdam’s study that conducted this research also showed that 27% of Hong Kong’s and 12% of Japan’s internet population used piracy sites.
Countries With Most Piracy Visits
How many of us think about the implications of getting a movie for free? According to the 2020 piracy report from MUSO, not so many. Since piracy sites are readily available, more internet users turn to streaming illegal content every year. The following list of the piracy rate by country reflects this trend:
|No.||Country||Billions of visits|
The pandemic brought bad habits to the forefront in 2020, with the United States leading the charge. As a Parks Associates study reports, more than 14.1 million US homes routinely visited piracy sites.
According to TMT Consulting’s film piracy statistics for software in Russia, the video piracy market’s worth was evaluated at $59 million in 2020, with a 12% increase in visits to piracy sites compared to 2019.
Americas Quarterly reported that Brazil lost $1.7 billion in commercial value as 46% of installed software was unlicensed.
The United Kingdom has experienced a sudden 57% rise in TV and movie piracy right after the pandemic broke out, with over 300 million visits to piracy sites in March 2020 alone.
Movie and TV Piracy Reaches an All-Time High
The Mandalorian and Avengers: Infinity War’s pirating statistics show that movie and TV piracy still reigns supreme. The only thing that has changed is the way people choose to obtain pirated content. Today, illegal streaming is the preferred method, overshadowing the traditional torrent file downloading.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk because of video piracy, while revenue losses caused by illegal distribution of movies and shows are measured in billions of dollars.
1. Every year, there are 26.6 billion illegal views of movies produced in the US and 126.7 billion illicit views of TV shows.
(US Chamber of Commerce)
These government statistics on software piracy, conducted in 2019, come from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center. According to its estimations, this number of views of pirated content represents between $22.7 billion and $55 billion in lost revenue for the movie industry in 2017. Moreover, pirating TV shows cost the industry between $27.1 billion and $65.9 billion.
This level of online piracy is causing massive losses to the US market since the movie and TV industry is seen as one of the primary sectors driving the country’s economy. This industry hires between 927,000 and 2.6 million employees, whose livelihood is impacted by rampant piracy, as movie piracy statistics for software suggest.
2. Between 230,000 and 560,000 people in the US lost their jobs in 2017 due to digital video piracy.
(US Chamber of Commerce)
The above GIPC report also shows that piracy-related activities put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. Digital video piracy of US-produced content affects the US gross domestic product (GDP) as well, decreasing it between $47.5 billion and $115.3 billion every year.
3. More than 80% of digital video piracy is accredited to illegal streaming.
(US Chamber of Commerce)
With the rapid advancements in digital technology, people’s pirating skills and preferences have also evolved. Software piracy statistics prior to 2017 show that almost 40% of the total digital video piracy came from BitTorrent movie downloads. Since then, however, illegal streaming activities came under the spotlight, making up over 80% of all digital video piracy.
Much like all subscription-based streaming services, illegal streaming sites offer a massive collection of movies and TV shows and an interface that is easy to navigate. The lightning-fast expansion of mobile apps providing illegal streaming content and on-demand videos has also become a serious issue, threatening to put legitimate streaming platforms out of work.
4. 2020 witnessed 130.5 billion visits to pirate sites, half of which were related to acquiring TV content.
Digital piracy statistics for software reveal that pirate sites had 130.5 billion visits in 2020, and 65.5 billion of them were made to access various TV content. The country with the highest number of visits per internet user was Barbados, whose inhabitants accessed piracy sites 253 times on average during the year.
5. About 46.9 billion cases of digital movie piracy and 183.4 billion of digital television piracy occurred within a year.
(US Chamber of Commerce)
The US Chamber of Commerce got these numbers from the 2017 reports on the torrented movies and TV shows in and outside of the US based on TECXIPIO and MUSO illegal downloading statistics. In the country, digital movie content was accessed via torrents 2.2 billion times, while the vast majority of 44.7 billion movie torrenting cases came outside the US. American residents watched 12.8 billion TV episodes illegally, and the rest of the world pirated a whopping 170.6 billion episodes.
6. In 2017, the estimated value of pirated movies and TV shows was $285.7 billion and $280.5 billion, respectively.
(US Chamber of Commerce)
In an ideal world, a part of this money would go to the TV and movie creators and distributors. The above digital piracy statistics for software related to entertainment estimate that the global revenue losses from digital piracy equaled between $39.3 billion and $95.4 billion for the TV industry and between $40.0 billion and $97.1 billion for the movie industry in 2017.
7. Digital video piracy might cause $67 billion of lost revenue in 2023 worldwide.
These 2023 predictions are pretty grim. The Parks Associates’ report also suggests that if only 10% of subscribers to paid television services canceled their memberships due to the available pirated content, these TV providers could face nearly $6 billion of lost revenue by 2023.
The facts and statistics about software piracy published in the report reveal that 5% of the US households used someone else’s pay-TV subscription, 6% of which did so to access online video services.
Pay-TV and OTT services’ revenue losses for 2019 were estimated at $9.1 billion, while 2022 might see a 38% increase in lost revenue, equaling $12.5 billion.
8. 30% of internet users find piracy sites through search engines.
People looking to pirate movies or download pirated content can easily find the most visited piracy sites and torrent search engines via Google. The most popular torrent search engine, The Pirate Bay, provides its services to approximately 59 million users, VdoCipher’s software piracy statistics claim.
If you multiply the vast number of torrent search engine users by the number of times they visit piracy sites, you’ll get a worrying number of illegal downloads. On average, each internet user accessed a piracy site 39 times during 2020.
Some Internet usage statistics show that modifying or omitting certain results on search engines such as Google would undoubtedly help reduce piracy-related activities.
9. Streaming illegally made up 93% of TV and 52% of movie piracy.
With the rise of streaming services, illegal streaming content is making headway in the piracy community. Although 59% of internet users know it's illegal to watch or pirate streaming movies, 52% continue to acquire pirated videos.
10. Avengers: Infinity War was the most pirated movie in 2019, while Tenet was the most sought-after 2021 Oscar nominee on piracy sites.
It seems that Marvel Studios can’t catch a break due to piracy. In 2019, Avengers: Infinity War was pirated 5,290,000 times and Captain Marvel 4,090,000 times. Aquaman came in third with 3,850,000 illegal downloads.
Oscar-nominated movies are also in high demand on piracy sites. The most downloaded 2021 nominee was Tenet, with 12,401,254 illegal views between October 2020 and February 2021. In the Best Picture category, Promising Young Woman led the charge, having been illegally streamed or downloaded 1,341,240 times.
According to movie piracy facts, not even cartoons were spared from unlawful activities, with The Croods: A New Age being pirated 6,238,472 times.
Various VPN browser add-ons might have contributed to the ever-growing piracy activities, as people believe these VPN solutions will keep their anonymity protected. However, those who download pirated content, popular movies in particular, are at a greater risk of having their computers infected by malicious software.
11. The Mandalorian was the most pirated TV show in 2020.
TV shows vastly outpaced movies on piracy sites during the pandemic. Disney’s The Mandalorian was the most pirated show, The Boys took the silver medal, and Westworld brought home bronze.
The main reason why TV shows are so prominent in GO-Gulf’s software piracy report is accessibility: to watch the above three shows, for example, you’d need to have a subscription on Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, and HBO. Naturally, you can still enjoy numerous shows using a single streaming service, but the most sought-after titles are usually spread across multiple platforms, and paying for each isn’t a choice for everyone.
12. Worldwide movie piracy increased by 33% after the pandemic broke out.
Due to COVID-induced lockdowns imposed in many countries, digital film piracy has skyrocketed, increasing by 33% worldwide, according to GO-Gulf global software piracy statistics. Over the years to come, this trend is expected to remain strong. Here’s the list of countries where the pandemic caused the most significant film piracy expansion in 2020:
|No.||Country||Film Piracy Increase|
Music Piracy Is Mutating
While the music industry hasn’t recorded such alarming piracy-related data in the last few years as the movie industry has, there’s still cause for concern. The available music piracy statistics suggest that the unlawful copying and distribution methods in this sector are transforming. That means that music piracy might as well have increased but managed to stay mostly under the radar.
13. Of the top 50 music piracy sites in 2019, 80.2% were stream-ripping services.
(Music Business Worldwide)
The number of people who download and pirate music content via pirate torrent sites is slowly decreasing in certain countries due to the enforcement of piracy laws. Still, it seems that stream-ripping services don't plan to back down anytime soon.
The music downloading stats from 2016 to 2019 suggest that stream-ripping software is mainly used for acquiring content from YouTube. Among music streaming platforms most affected by stream-ripping activities are also Spotify and SoundCloud.
14. Torrenting and stream-ripping represent 59% of worldwide music piracy activities in 2017.
(Music Business Worldwide)
In 2017, music piracy made up 24.5% of all recorded visits to piracy sites. Almost three-fifths of cases involving illegal acquisition of music were connected to stream-ripping sites and music torrents.
In the UK, 2019 software piracy statistics show that a YouTube video downloader called y2mate.com was the most used stream-ripping service, recording 47% of all visits made to 50 most popular music stream-ripping sites in 2019.
15. Due to piracy, the music industry’s 2018 revenue dropped by $4.8 billion compared to 1999.
In 1999, the music industry’s revenue was $14.6 billion. In 2018, however, the industry’s income dropped by a third, totaling $9.8 billion despite the success of music services such as iTunes and Spotify. As the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s illegal music downloading statistics confirmed once again, stream-ripping remains one of the most widely used methods of illegally obtaining music files.
16. 23% of surveyed internet users resorted to music stream-ripping services in 2019.
Of 34,000 internet users surveyed by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in 2019, almost one-fourth admitted to copying various music content using stream-ripping sites and apps. This was particularly noticed among younger users, specifically those between 16 and 24 years of age.
17. In 2018, 17 million people used stream-rippers in the US.
According to MusicWatch’s music piracy stats, the most cited reasons for turning to stream-ripping services were the offline access possibility and not needing to pay for each song separately. The above number shows a 13% increase compared to 2017 when 15 million US residents resorted to stream-rippers.
18. Illegal music streaming decreased between 1.01% and 19.72% globally during the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Not all is grim news as music pirating activity lessened worldwide after the outbreak of COVID-19 in March last year. In Japan, it decreased by 19.72%, in European countries by 11.84%, and in the UK by 5.84% compared to February 2020. The US software piracy statistics also suggest a slight but noticeable decrease, with 1.01% less music piracy during the last week of March 2020.
E-Book Piracy Reduction: A Dead Letter?
As is the case with all the other mentioned industries, book publishers and authors continue to struggle with the sporadic but nevertheless persistent piracy activities as e-book pirate sites keep denying them their due earnings.
19. The book-publishing industry deals with $300 million of lost author income every year due to e-book piracy.
(Book Riot, Digimarc)
The above figure, reported by Book Riot, comes from the Authors Guild’s findings presented at the 2019 BookExpo. The damage caused by pirating books online is also recorded in Digimarc and Nielsen’s 2017 study, whose digital piracy statistics show $315 million in lost sales annually.
Unfortunately, pirated books and their electronic versions have become a common sight even on eBay and Amazon, not to mention all those sites aimed specifically at selling pirated e-book content. One of the ways to lessen the chances of people finding these illegal copies could be, once again, requesting from search engines to adjust their search tools to omit results related to piracy sites.
20. 70% of internet users who illegally download e-books have academic degrees.
The above 2017 study also revealed the statistics on software piracy among college students concerning e-books. They show us that almost three-thirds of people who illegally download e-books are college graduates or graduate degree holders.
E-book piracy is predominant among people who are between 30 and 44 years old and whose annual household income ranges from $60,000 to $99,000.
21. In the UK, 17% of electronic books read in 2017 were pirated.
(UK Intellectual Property Office)
The IPO’s Online Copyright Infringement Tracker report from 2017 suggests that, while 83% of that year’s total volume of e-book content was legal, the rest was pirated. That makes for four million books in digital format acquired illegally.
Are Pirated Programs Here To Stay?
Pirating programs such as operating systems or games has been an issue the software industry has combated since its beginnings. What was once a secret exchange of floppy disks has evolved into a quick and easy, yet still illegal, download from the internet. While the number of software piracy incidents has significantly decreased lately, it seems that there’s still no solution to prevent pirated software from being distributed altogether.
22. In 2017, 37% of used software was unlicensed.
A BSA’s survey, which included 110 economies, examined the number of unlicensed installations of software on personal computers worldwide. According to the Business Software Alliance’s piracy statistics, the US had an unlicensed installation rate of 15%, while the UK recorded 21%. Although the data shows a 2% decline compared to 2016, the staggering amount of users who use pirated software is still worrying.
23. Software piracy increased between 20% and 30% due to the pandemic and working remotely.
CEO of compliance and licensing management firm Cylynt, Ted Mirraco, stated last year that the lockdown and working from home led to a spike in software piracy.
BSA’s research indicates that numerous CIOs are ramping up their efforts to avoid unlicensed software and, thus, potential malware attacks. An infected computer can cost a company more than $10,000, which is why businesses turn to various Windows and Mac antivirus solutions. The same software piracy statistics suggest that the estimated damages to companies worldwide due to illegal software might reach $359 billion annually.
24. Windows operating systems remain the most pirated software to date.
According to GO-Gulf’s reports, the most pirated software is Windows (XP, 7, and 10), as it’s still the most popular operating system among both private and business users, dominating the operating system market share. According to the Windows Experience blog, Windows 10 alone was installed on over one billion devices in 2020. Imagine what that number would be if all illegal installations were recorded as well.
The next on the list is the Microsoft Office package, while the third most pirated software is Internet Download Manager. As these computer software piracy statistics also suggest, the file-compression and archiving tool WinRAR remains among the top five pirated programs.
25. 46% of programs used in Brazil in 2019 were unlicensed.
Americas Quarterly reported in 2019 that nearly half of all software installed in Brazil is pirated. Due to this shocking installation rate of unlicensed software, about $1.7 billion in revenue is lost.
The government of Brazil conducts raids to suppress such illegal activities. In 2017, 800 tons of counterfeit and unlicensed goods worth approximately $78 million were seized. However, the raided market was back in business mere months later.
26. One-fifth of consumers acquire games from illicit sources.
The gaming market has taken the world by storm. Seeing as how many people pirate games today, preventing their illegal distribution has become a predominant topic in this industry.
Irdeto reports that in 2019, the worldwide gaming market brought in $152 billion in revenue, which should surpass $180 billion this year. However, a great number of gamers still turn to illegal means to get sought-after titles. GO-Gulf’s 2020 research shows that 21% of all surveyed consumers downloaded pirated games from illicit sites.
27. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl is the most pirated game combo.
At the top of the infamous list of the most pirated games ever is Nintendo DS’s popular combo, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. It was illegally copied 5.4 million times, GameRant’s video game piracy statistics show. Pokémon shares first place with PlayStation’s Dissidia Final Fantasy, which recorded the same number of illegal downloads.
28. Game publishers risk 80% of sales revenue if their games are compromised upon launch.
Gamers might be annoyed by the DRM protection that comes with new games, but such tools lessen the chances of illegal use of copyrighted content. According to Irdeto’s press release from 2018, game providers can face great losses in sales if their AAA titles are compromised within the first two weeks of their release. The potential losses can reach 80%, half of which are likely to occur in the first four days, which is why digital rights management is crucial.
Although computer software piracy statistics warn that pirates might be getting more competent at cracking DRM solutions, these measures still protect the gaming industry, at least to a certain extent.
29. The mobile gaming market suffered a $17.5 billion loss in revenue in five years.
According to Forbes, a report from Tapcore, a company focused on detecting pirate app installations, shows that the publishers of mobile games lost $17.5 billion to piracy between 2013 and 2018. Naturally, popular games had more significant losses - Subway Surfers lost $91 million in revenue.
30. Of the most pirated mobile apps in 2018, 28 were games.
Another interesting 2018 Tapcore statistic reported by Forbes reveals that 95% of downloaded premium apps - those consumers buy before installing - were pirated. These video game piracy statistics also show that 28 of the top 100 pirated apps were games, while the rest belonged to non-game categories.
A premium mobile game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, was among the most pirated titles for mobile devices, losing $76 million in revenue. Another version of the game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, lost almost as much due to illegal downloads - $75 million.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to BSA, the installation percentage of pirated software in the United States in 2017 was 15% and 37% worldwide. When it comes to China, the software piracy statistics show that 66% of installed software is unlicensed.
It is common enough to be considered alarming. According to Revenera, an American software company, $19 billion in revenue was lost in North America and Western Europe in 2020 due to software piracy and $27.3 billion worldwide.
Windows operating systems and the Microsoft Office suite are the most pirated software according to GO-Gulf’s 2020 findings.
According to the US Chamber of Commerce’s report from 2019, digital piracy is so present in the country that it lowers the GDP by up to $115.3 billion annually. The Chamber’s software piracy statistics also note that more than 80% of digital video piracy is attributed to unlicensed streaming.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.