In this day and age, thanks to inter-connected devices, Wi-Fi, and the availability of data and content, it’s easy to watch the latest and greatest entertainment on any device, whenever and wherever we want it.
Although we have great options to stream content legally in South Africa, stats show that many people still watch reproduced content illegally.
Piracy can take many forms. Legal sites like YouTube can unwittingly play host to illegal videos – which have been altered in some way to avoid detection by software designed to find copyright infringed content. There are also illegal live streams, some as crude as a webcam filming content; theft and sale of usernames and passwords for streaming services like Netflix, and peer-to-peer (P2P) piracy via sites like Piratebay.
While piracy may seem like a victimless crime, the most likely victim is the person streaming the content from the Internet.
Think about it – the sites that distribute illegal content can make money by selling ad space, often to unsavoury or adult websites, or by allowing other criminals to put malware on the pirate site. This malware can give the advertiser access to a user’s computer, allowing hackers to steal sensitive information, or worse.
A study by FACT, the UK’s leading intellectual property protection organisation, looked at illegal content sites based in the US and found that one in three exposed its users to malware. The study further showed that Internet users who visited content theft sites were 28 times more likely to be exposed to malware than those who visited legitimate websites or content providers.
Research published last year by Carnegie Mellon University in the US also found that the greater the amount of time a user spent on illegal download or streaming sites, the higher the chance that they’d be exposed to viruses and malware.
Coupled with the threat of exposing your computer to viruses and malware is the threat of exposing your family to inappropriate content.
According to the Irdeto Consumer Piracy Threat 2018 report, this could take the form of ads aimed squarely at the adult market, or misleading video titles, which makes it all too easy for an unsuspecting child to click on a Peppa Pig title on YouTube, only to find it’s a spoof account with a very inappropriate storyline.
Abide by the law or face the consequences
If the possibility of being exposed to malware doesn’t move you, perhaps the possibility of paying a hefty fine will.
Pirating copyrighted content is illegal – this includes downloading, distributing (seeding content via a Torrent site falls into this bracket) and streaming content without paying for it – which when done could result in a fine being issued.
For the first conviction you could get a fine of up to R5,000 or three years in jail for each item pirated. For subsequent convictions, you can be fined up to R10,000 or face five years behind bars.
When you can access so much excellent content, both international and local, for a small monthly fee via streaming services like Showmax, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, there’s really no reason to expose yourself to the risks of piracy.
This article was published in partnership with Showmax.