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Side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: a surge in movie piracy

Side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: a surge in movie piracy

Movie Piracy

Motion Picture Association CEO Charles Rivkin says his organization is also at work combating another side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: a surge in movie piracy. He said this at the CinemaCon where the focus has been on getting studios to put films in theaters only again.

Movie piracy in pandemic

Due to the pandemic, films have either skipped theaters or released simultaneously in cinemas and on streaming services.

For this reason, they have appeared on pirate sites faster than ever before thanks to rapidly improved torrent technology. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that films like Warner Bros.’ “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” and “The Suicide Squad,” along with Disney’s “Black Widow,” rapidly became the most pirated films online shortly after their day-and-date releases.

Charles Rivkin acknowledged the The Wall Street Journal story at a press conference at CinemaCon in Las Vegas but also noted that piracy is something the industry has had to continuously combat regardless of release strategies and that the Motion Picture Association is pushing back with the help of the anti-piracy Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which is led by the five major Hollywood studios as well as Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon. (

“In May we released a statement from ACE against a group called NTG Release Group,” Rivkin said. “When we took it down, NTG was ripping films since 2018 with 4,600 releases in the last year alone. They uploaded films within minutes of them being made available on digital release.”

Rivkin also said that the MPA and ACE are currently working on shutting down three other torrent sites.

The National Association of Theater Owners on movie piracy

The National Association of Theater Owners has argued the escalated piracy from day-and-date releasing has damaged studios and movie theaters at a time when the film industry is trying to get business going again after a year of COVID-19 shutdowns. 

It specifically called out piracy as a factor in the steeper-than-expected drop in box office revenue for “Black Widow” after a post-shutdown record $80 million domestic opening weekend.

Pristine digital copies became available within minutes of release on Disney+. ‘Black Widow’ was the most torrented movie for the week ending July 12,” The National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement released last month. “This did not happen for ‘F9’ or ‘A Quiet Place 2.How much money did everyone lose to simultaneous release piracy? The many questions raised by Disney’s limited release of streaming data opening weekend are being rapidly answered by ‘Black Widow’’s disappointing and anomalous performance. The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself.” (

The ‘zero- day’ movie piracy

Platforms such as HBO Max, Disney +, Amazon Prime and Netflix brought quality video-on-demand services and for this reason it would be fair to assume that the illegal downloading of films was on the decline.

However, with cinema’s shut during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, online piracy saw a sharp spike.

Illegal streaming sites saw a spike in visitors. U.S. and U.K. residents saw a  jump of about 31 per cent from February to March, according to London-based Muso TNT Ltd., which tracks piracy trends. 

Pirate website operators capitalised on this, offering ‘COVID-19 subscription’ packages and ‘self-isolation’ discounts.

Before the arrival of online streaming platforms online pirates suffered from ‘zero- day’ problem. 

In the world of digital content piracy it means: if pirates were able to distribute an illegal copy of a movie or album on the same day it went on sale in stores (or maybe even before), it was dubbed a “zero day.” 

When a film debuted in cinemas there was also the issue of having no perfect copies to circulate. So instead pirates would upload low quality versions filmed from people’s cameras.

However, with new releases now being premiered on sites such as HBO Max, Disney+, Netflix,  pirates now have a perfect copy of movies or TV series to circulate.

Online search trends suggest that fans have been looking for free streams of Cruella and the Friends Reunion online, pushing traffic towards illegal sites like Putlocker and The Pirate Bay” said Peter Szyszko, CEO of anti-piracy firm, White Bullet. “Indeed, search engine platforms were being flooded with keywords such as ‘Cruella movie download’ and ‘Cruella 2021’, within an hour of the film’s premiere on the Disney+ platform. Publishers like Disney and HBO Max will need to work much harder to ensure these high-profile releases aren’t so easy to find on pirate sites as it costs their studios millions in lost streaming revenue.” (

Onsist’s take on Piracy

To counter Movie Piracy is to enlist the help of Online Piracy agencies such as Onsist. Onsist has been battling movie piracy for the last decade. ”Stop Losing Your Revenue to Piracy“ has always been the motto of Onsist. 

Using advanced automated tools to report and takedown illegal online videos such as popular movies or tv series, helping streamers to go back to the source of the contents. 

The vision of Onsist has always been to protect brands from all over the world against online theft and piracy. Onsist wants people not to fear losing their content to pirates, counterfeiters and other digital threats. 

Streaming platforms such as Zeus Entertainment and BroadwayHD have already found success fighting online piracy by enlisting the help of Onsist

All in all, the fight against Digital Media Piracy will only be getting bigger as we enter The Platinum Age of Digital Piracy. 

Our counter should also be swift against it. Educating the audience on the dangers of piracy as well as enlisting the help of online anti-pirating agencies such as Onsist. It won’t stop the storm but it will surely be the first step to slow it down. 

Stop losing your revenue

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