Presented by Partners Against Piracy

Content pirates becoming more sophisticated, war on piracy intensifies

Recently, the piracy app Kimi, which let users watch stolen movies and TV shows on their iPhones, made headlines when it briefly surpassed top streaming platforms on Apple’s App Store rankings before being removed by the company for violating its rules.

Kimi was released on the App Store in September 2023 and remained relatively unknown until early February 2024 when downloads spiked to about 65 000 downloads on one weekend alone.

So how did the app remain on Apple’s platform so long undetected?

Kimi developers masqueraded the app as a vision-testing platform to get past Apple’s review filters and described the app as a game that would present users with two pictures and ask them to spot the differences to test their eyesight.

But Kimi was nothing like what its developers described. When users opened the app, which had a sleek interface similar to Netflix, they instead found access to hundreds of popular movies and TV shows to watch—though not always in the best quality. The Oscar-nominated Poor Things, for instance, was grainy and pixelated.

According to data from app intelligence firm Appfigures, Kimi managed to snag fourth place on the App Store’s free entertainment apps list, beating the likes of HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock, and Disney+ in both categories.

Piracy harming creative industries across the world

Piracy poses a growing challenge to all sorts of digital media and entertainment companies.

For example, piracy-tracking firm VFT estimates that 17 million viewers watched the 2024 Super Bowl on illegal pirate streams, and a 2023 survey of 3 200 NFL fans found that 35% of respondents regularly watch NFL games on pirate streams.

The consequences of content piracy are high, especially for creators who lose out on hard earned money.

Imagine, for a moment, you are an aspiring songwriter and musician. You invest an entire year writing your first album. Your new album is finally produced and hits the market.

You begin making a modest amount of money. However, you discover that your album has been copied and distributed for free over the internet. Now you begin losing money.

You cannot afford to write a second album, due to this financial loss. Additionally, you discover someone selling your album for a reduced price.

As a result, not only are you losing money, but someone else is profiting from your work. Without copyright laws, you would have no legal recourse.

Where content is habitually stolen, the industries built on creating content for fair remuneration may cease to be viable. Jobs vanish, as does the content that reflects the lives of audiences.

Statistics show that between US$40 and US$97 billion in movie industry revenue is lost due to content piracy, while that range is between US$39 to US$95 billion for the television industry.

In Africa, where resources are limited, piracy is also widespread. An Irdeto survey found that users in five major African territories made 17.4 million visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet in a single three-month period.

“Piracy is theft,” says Frikkie Jonker, Irdeto’s Broadcasting and Cybersecurity: Anti-Piracy Director. “When people steal content, those productions stop being viable. Those stories are not told, and the people who create that content are not paid.”

Jonker says the same principle applies across the video content sector – to movies, sport, series, telenovelas, talk shows and documentaries.

From the Kimi app example, and countless others, it is clear that a multi-pronged stakeholder approach is required in the fight against piracy – especially educating consumers who sometime still see nothing wrong with downloading illegal apps or streaming content, which they should be paying for, for free.

Partners Against Piracy, is one such campaign which is working with governments in Africa and the like of the MultiChoice Group to create awareness and strengthen copyright policies to ensure that there is recourse for content creators across Africa.

In 2019, The South African Police Services, in collaboration with the MultiChoice Group, arrested a suspect in connection with illegally selling pirated internet streaming devices and online subscriptions.

“To effectively combat piracy, content owners, operators and service providers must work together and rely on cutting-edge anti-piracy technologies to identify the source of pirated content and allow for its immediate shutdown,” concludes Jonker.

Click here to learn more about Partners Against Piracy.

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Content pirates becoming more sophisticated, war on piracy intensifies