June 11, 2019

Viewer Discretion Advised


The rise of sophisticated technologies coupled with the demand for convenience has caused the online streaming industry to flourish, with 500 licensed online video portals to date. Video streaming has revolutionized the consumer’s ability access a broad range of content. Over the past few years, we’ve seen entertainment mediums create, innovate, and evolve to meet the growing demand for programming that is accessible anytime, anywhere.

Unfortunately, this new wave of viewership has been targeted by bad actors seeking to capitalize on demand. In fact, recent research indicated that more than 80% of piracy is attributable to streaming. At first thought, free streaming sites and piracy boxes that host stolen content may seem harmless. However, rampant online piracy deprives the U.S. content production sector, our nation’s most creative and innovative companies, and millions of workers of well-earned revenue. It also puts consumers directly in harm’s way.

Illegal streaming services are not designed with the consumer in mind. The lack of quality assurance means that unsuspecting viewers make themselves vulnerable to a litany of potential dangers when streaming on pirated sites or through piracy boxes or plugins. Illegal downloads often contain malware that can infect and ruin personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets. In worst-case scenarios, hackers, third-parties, and malware authors can leverage viruses to steal your most sensitive information, including you or your family’s personal and financial details. On the other hand, when you pay for a legitimate streaming service, you are paying for security. Legal streaming services have taken initiative to protect their customers, often employing robust IT teams to prevent malware infiltration in their networks.

The problems malware cause typically cost more than just a quick call to IT. And online pirates aren’t stopping with your computer; they are also targeting smartphones and tablets. The increased popularity of mobile phones has made “jail-breaking,” a way to introduce unlicensed software to registered mobile devices, the most common method of obtaining unlicensed material. Additionally, illegal streaming apps are now formatted for mobile devices including phones, tablets, and even virtual reality devices. The same threat from computer malware is present on phones, meaning it could be used to access your banking apps and other sensitive information on cloud storage.

While digital streaming remains the most popular source of piracy, the growth of streaming boxes has also resulted in the production of similar, counterfeit goods. Counterfeit USB plugins or physical boxes that mimic mainstream market options have grown in popularity as consumers seek to avoid paying for content. Unlicensed streaming boxes or devices lack the quality standards of secure devices from patented brands. Overheating and non-responsive devices are common complaints about these products. In fact, a recent study found that 100% of these devices did not meet the UK’s national safety regulations. The third-parties who manufacture these goods are only concerned with turning a quick profit, not providing quality electronics that are safe for consumer use.

Simply put, while it may be convenient, illegal streaming wasn’t created with the end user’s well-being in mind. Unregulated content-sharing sites and unlicensed streaming devices are designed to prey on consumers and undermine the broader legitimate entertainment industry. Be warned: when it comes to piracy, the risks far outweigh the rewards – usually at your expense.

To learn more about illegal streaming’s negative effects on the U.S., join us next Tuesday for the launch of our latest report, “Impacts of Digital Piracy on the U.S. Economy.” Click here for more information.

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