At this point, it’s fairly redundant to say that media and entertainment companies don’t like it when people illegally download their films and TV shows. But the numbers still provide a stark reminder of just how big the issue is.
Last year, Digital TV Research released numbers showing that the U.S. alone will see $11.6 billion in lost revenues from video piracy by 2022, up from $9 billion in 2016. China is expected to lose $9.8 billion by 2022, and the Asia-Pacific region could lose nearly $20 billion in revenues by then. Overall, the firm expects lost revenues from video piracy to total $51.6 billion by 2022.
In 2017, streaming giant Netflix was extorted for $50,000 by a hacker named Dark Overlord, who ended up leaking episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” despite Netflix paying up. The Walt Disney Company found itself in a similar situation when a hacker demanded ransom for a copy of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” that was stolen before the theatrical release date. And once again, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” drove incredible numbers of illegal downloads.
The continued piracy has driven media companies to join forces and form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a coalition focused on curbing illegal online piracy. Members include Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, CBS, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros.
In the meantime, the Motion Picture Association of America has continued to track the most notorious sources for pirated films and TV shows. In the MPAA’s most recent submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the organization ceased including physical marketplaces for pirated materials and focused solely on online marketplaces.
“To be clear, physical notorious markets remain a persistent threat in many territories around the world. Online marketplaces, however, are frequently extraterritorial in reach and have the most significant impact on the global legitimate market for U.S. movies and television programming,” the MPAA wrote.
The MPAA’s report details linking and streaming sites; direct download cyberlockers and streaming video hosting services; website portals; peer-to-peer networks and BitTorrent portals; hosting providers; and ad networks. But for the sake of breaking down the list, here are the five video piracy sites with the highest number of unique monthly visitors. (All visitor totals are based on metrics from July 2017.)
26.35 million unique visitors
According to MPAA, Fmovies.is is hosted in Sweden and masked with a reverse proxy service. The site holds an Alexa rank of 260, which is based on how much global traffic it receives. As the report points out, Denmark’s district court in Frederiksberg blocked the site about one year ago.
36.78 million unique visitors
Kinogo.club is hosted by a provider registered in the United Kingdom and masks its IP location using Cloudflare services. The site holds an Alexa rank of 241 and also hosts some of its own Russian-language content. In June 2016, the site was blocked by a city court in Moscow.
The Pirate Bay
62.21 million unique visitors
Although its location is unknown, the Pirate Bay was at the center of a high-profile criminal case in Sweden. In 2008, operators of the site were charged with helping breach copyright law, and the following year they were sentenced to prison and multimillion-dollar fines. In subsequent years, other founders were extradited from Cambodia and Thailand to face charges in Sweden and Denmark. The site holds an Alexa rank of 87.
77.03 million unique visitors
Openload.co is hosted in Romania and masked by a reverse proxy service. The site, which holds an Alexa rank of 147, incentivizes its users to upload large files by offering rewards for file downloads by users in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. According to the MPAA, the “Very High Tier” offers $40 per 10,000 downloads.
216.8 million unique visitors
VK.com's staggering number of visitors is due to the site being built primarily as a social network for Russia and other Russian-speaking territories. It holds an Alexa rank of 18, which puts it right up there with Instagram and Twitter. But despite the site's clear popularity as a social network, it has also become a reliable source for illegally distributed TV shows and movies. The company has taken measures—including limiting access to third-party applications and content-recognition technologies—but it unwittingly plays host to thousands of infringing files each month, according to the MPAA. Earlier this year, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office issued a new report accusing VK of infringing intellectual property.