Media. Piracy: overall decline in illegal audiences excluding sports broadcasts

The fight against piracy is progressing, but there are still areas of work to find solutions to pirated innovation. This is essentially what the Audiovisual and Digital Communications Regulatory Authority (Arcom) reveals in its annual report for 2023, which assesses its measures to protect creations and combat illegal services of cultural or sports content.

Arcom, which was born in 2022 from the merger of the Supreme Audiovisual Council (CSA) and the High Office for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi), has since been in charge of the fight against piracy. It welcomes the overall decline in the illegal audience: it affected 8.5 million Internet users in 2023 compared to 11.7 million in 2021, a decrease of 27%.

Many pirate sites have been blocked

In detail, the authority observes a decline in the use of streaming and direct downloads “due to the impact of blocking measures aimed at preventing access to illegal services offering sports or cultural content”. Arcom, seized by rights holders, blocked 594 domain names between October 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023.

These blocks lead to a change in behavior and – Arcom hopes – in the habits of Internet users. So in May 2023, 38% of Internet users for audio useillegal websites faced site blocking during the last six months. 46% of them abandoned the search and 7% opted for a legal offer.

The decline in traffic to sites offering streaming or direct downloads is estimated to be 30% in 2023. This decline was accentuated in the second half of the year, following the closure of host Uptobox in September 2023, which allowed downloads of movies and series. . It was rights holders such as Netflix, Disney or Apple TV + – grouped in the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – that took legal action two months before.

However, Arcom condemns the phenomenon of mirror sites, a kind of backup site with a database similar to the database of the main site. “The impact is more subtle for some.” high replication services as Wawacity, directory zone Or download-zone,” he notes.

VPN, IPTV, social networks: sports piracy is emerging again

Another area of ​​work for Arcom is live sports broadcasting. In 2023, there will be a resurgence of live streaming due to the capacity to reinvent the piracy ecosystem. This is mainly the use of illegal IPTV, these pirate boxes that allow access to paid channels and services at a lower price. In 2023, 1.83 million people used it, in 2022 it was 1.6 million.

This also includes subscriptions to VPNs, “virtual private networks” that allow you to bypass legal measures to protect online content. Specifically, with a VPN, the French Internet user virtually establishes a connection from another country, which in particular allows access to sports events broadcast for free in other countries. 57% of Internet users who engage in illegal practices use a VPN, the annual report says.

To combat this phenomenon, Arcom hopes to “engage VPN providers” to “enhance the effectiveness of blocking measures.” A wish that might go unheeded, knowing that VPN providers make these bypasses a selling point.

Social networks, the “new Eldorado”

Finally, access to live sports is also via social media. Arcom reports that 32% of illegal Internet users use social networks to identify and access illegal services. Team recently documented the development of illegal streaming via encrypted messaging service Telegram, described as “the new Eldorado”.

When it comes to the fight against piracy in sports, however, the picture is not so bleak. From January 2022, the law allows sports rights holders to request a ban on sites that broadcast their competitions illegally. This measure made it possible to block 2,167 domain names in 2023. More than a quarter of illegal live streamers have personally faced blocking from Arcom (27%) and nearly half of them said they have abandoned their practice or signed up for a legal offer.

232 criminal penalties for 2.5 million referrals

Of the 2,597,523 referrals made to rights holders during 2023, Arcom sent 151,803 “first warnings” by email, followed by 32,894 “second warnings” by email and registered letter.

“At every stage of the process, 75% of users do not repeat,” assures Arcom.

However, 3,844 “gross negligence notices” were sent to offenders, informing them that the acts are subject to criminal prosecution. In 1,526 cases, Arcom then referred the file to the courts, which led to 232 criminal sanctions (fines of 90 to 1,000 euros and damages), 217 alternative measures including 121 reminders of the law, 388 classifications without suite and mitigation.

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