Digital piracy is defined as the unauthorized use or reproduction of another's work.
A pirate is defined as a person who appropriates or reproduces the work of another for profit without permission, usually in contravention of a patent or copyright.
A whole generation of people has grown up visiting unlicensed websites and delivery methods to view and consume digital content and this generation has been labelled as pirates. The ‘pirate’ audience is not, largely, in it for profit and it’s time we redefine the audience as an ‘unlicensed’ audience.
The unlicensed audience wants to access the content when they want it.
There are many drivers at play here; price sensitivity, windowing, licensing restrictions or platform accessibility. In an increasingly competitive SVoD market, this unlicensed audience will inevitably continue to seek out alternative methods of accessing content via unlicensed sites.
The subtlety of semantics here means that by defining this audience as pirates we run the risk of ignoring them as unreachable, beyond rehabilitation, but as I have long argued this audience are consumer; they buy shoes, have bank accounts, subscribe to some platforms but not all and are high intent fans but not in it for profit.
In a recent survey, MUSO conducted with a panel of 8000 people, over 80% of participants stated that paying for content across multiple streaming services is becoming too expensive and over 50% of the panellists said it was extremely likely or likely that they would use unlicensed sites if they couldn’t get the content through licensed channels.
This audience, if embraced, can provide rights-holders, content creators and content platforms a valuable resource of data and insight. Geographical consumption trends, for example; engagement and popularity, genre trends, title comparisons, new releases and back catalogue trends amongst many others.
And this is a vast audience. Across 2018 MUSO tracked 189bn visits to unlicensed sites - or put another way, that’s 56.4 visits per internet user. If we continue to refer to this as a pirate audience we run the risk of marginalising and ignoring it, hoping it will go away. If we embrace it as an unlicensed audience then we have a significant opportunity to understand, convert and monetise. Nuance is everything.
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