‘Snapshot’ survey reveals extent of online piracy

Online piracy

The issue of online piracy is a growing one, with a new study showing billions of people visited illegal filesharing sites every year.

However, the new study by anti-fraud company MarkMonitor only showed a portion of the global phenomena.

The firm examined 22 brands from a range of product categories, including music, films and pharmaceuticals. It discovered more than 10,000 suspicious sites stocking the downloads or counterfeit goods and found out the urls had received over 53 billion hits in a year.

The most popular were sites offering entertainment downloads such as music or films but sites selling counterfeit items, such as prescription drugs, clocked up a massive 92 million hits in just 12 months. Most of the sites were hosted in either Western Europe or the US.

Yet, this could just be the tip of the iceberg. MarkMonitor admitted surveying 22 brands was only a "small sample" so could only provide "a snapshot of the scope of online theft of intellectual property and illicit e-commerce."

Despite the relative size of the sample though, the company concluded online piracy and counterfeiting could cost the worldwide economy a massive $200 billion (128 billion) each year.

The study was launched after the US Chamber of Commerce (CoC) approached MarkMonitor with growing concerns around online piracy and counterfeit goods.

However, Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer of MarkMonitor, urged caution in the way to approach the problem.

"In the online world, unlike the physical world, supply and demand are virtually limitless so it is imperative to understand both online distribution channels as well as digital promotional vehicles in order to develop effective mitigation strategies," he said.

"Examining traffic patterns and geographic information are vital in identifying and prioritising enforcement actions rather than playing whack-a-mole' with egregious offenders."

Also, the number of visits to the site does not necessarily correlate with the number of downloads or goods purchased. But with such a large volume of hits, the US CoC was very concerned.

"We have known for a long time that rogue websites, those dedicated to piracy and counterfeiting, were flourishing at our expense [and] now we begin to see the staggering scope of this problem," said Steve Tepp, senior director of internet counterfeiting and piracy at the US CoC.

"The MarkMonitor study is just the tip of the iceberg, identifying only a portion of the colossal amount of internet traffic related to online counterfeiting and digital piracy. The study's findings underscore the urgency to address this epidemic in order to protect consumers, allow the legitimate internet marketplace to flourish, and create jobs."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.