We look at how piracy apps comparable to Netflix open up media piracy to a new generation, and highlight the indisputable attractiveness of the dark side.
Netflix for pirates
Open-source sharing platforms Popcorn Time and Kodi are doing what Napster did in the early 2000’s: automating downloads to make pirating effortless and provide a sense of legitimacy. Dubbed “Netflix for Pirates”, these two platforms are carving a name for themselves in the global war against piracy. Their secret? An attractive, fast, easy-to-use interface.
Online movie piracy is nothing new. Practically every movie has been available online free to download through some means, at least since BitTorrent’s launch in 2001. But the majority of internet users are apprehensive about downloading illegal content, and find the process complicated. Enter the legally-grey Popcorn Time, an attractive searchable platform with options to sort and filter movies, offering support for multiple languages, subtitles and different types of devices.
It’s no surprise, then, that Netflix described Popcorn Time as one of its “biggest competitors” in a 2015 letter to shareholders, citing Google Trends information that showed how searches for ‘Popcorn Time’ were rivalling Google searches for ‘Netflix’ from time to time. In fact, Google is surely responsible for Popcorn Time’s success, listing the site as the top result following a search for ‘popcorn’ (See: why does Google list illegal links?).
Kodi overtakes Popcorn Time
But since late 2015 web searches for Popcorn Time have taken a downturn, with searches for ‘Kodi’ gradually overtaking the former. Kodi, an open-source application that allows users to stream 4K media through downloaded add-ons such as Youtube, operates on PCs, Android phones and over Kodi streaming boxes. Kodi boxes in particular are gaining notoriety, for frequently being pre-installed with illegal third-party add-ons used for pirating movies. The boxes, allowing consumers to watch content with greater ease, have led to a rise in older generations pirating: a study last month found that in the UK an astonishing 18 percent of the 35-44 and 55+ age groups surveyed use Kodi to pirate content, compared with just 3 percent of 18-24 year olds.
And the increasing popularity of Kodi shows no sign of slowing. It’s hardly surprising given that its multiple libraries mean that its collection of TV shows, live sport and movies is virtually infinite. Despite platforms like Kodi being dubbed as "Netflix for Pirates", it falls into a secure loophole legally thanks to its open-source nature and indirect indexing of illegal content through third-party add-ons. And finally the attractive and customisable interface of Kodi, as well as facilitating a simple user experience, makes the software seem more licit. There’s even been a guide released on how to make Kodi look exactly like Netflix, created in order to benefit (or dupe?) those “less technically advanced” who are used to the legal streaming service.
The trends towards these kind of streaming platforms are strongly indicative of the changing landscape of media consumption, fuelled by a growing expectation of on-demand availability arguably driven by legit streaming services such as Netflix. This expectation was first observed in millennials, but the generation have set a new standard in media consumption which is gradually becoming adopted universally, as pirating becomes an easier practice and thus no longer limited to the tech-savvy. Protecting content becomes a harder task for IP owners, particularly as media consumption habits are changing rapidly with the rapid development of technology. In order to protect content, IP owners should focus efforts on staying educated as to new and trending ways of pirating media, in order to evaluate where to best place resources to attack the growing availability of pirated content online.