To the surprise of precisely nobody, it’s become way easier to stream films illegally during the coronavirus lockdown.
In the UK, cinemas started closing in mid-March, and it was a similar situation around the world. As a result, studios decided to push some film releases back. But others, like Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker, and Trolls World Tour, were released digitally instead.
This undoubtedly contributed to three times as many links to illegal streams appearing online since the beginning of the lockdown period, according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
“Digital copies are certainly easier to pirate than theatrical-only releases, in that in order to get a pirate copy of a film still on cinema release, a cammer would need to record the film directly at a film screening,” a spokesperson for FACT told Trusted Reviews.
“A cammer is likely to get caught at the cinema, or the leak can then be traced if it appears online. With digital releases, it’s easier for pirates to copy and distribute.”
Digital releases aren’t the only contributing factor, of course, but cinemas and studios have found themselves stuck in an intriguingly sticky situation.
Trolls World Tour‘s digital release was a success for NBCUniversal, which subsequently announced that, looking ahead to when cinemas are allowed to open again, it plans to release new films in the cinemas and on streaming services on the same day.
Odeon reacted by banning all Universal films from all of its cinemas.
FACT says that “two major recent releases saw a spike in links from February to March”, and that it has detected a steadily increasing number of links to illegal film streams over the course of the lockdown, with the number of links more than doubling from February to April.
“It’s no surprise that there’s been an increase in demand for content during the lockdown period, resulting in the inevitable increase in piracy, shown by the near trebling we’ve seen in streaming links,” said Kieron Sharp, the CEO of FACT.
“However, it’s essential to remember that the only legal way of watching films is through the official providers. If you’re accessing content in any way that does not remunerate the content provider, this is not a grey area: it is illegal. This includes links to illegal streaming sites.
“Every pirated link that we detect denies the rights holder of revenue they are entitled to and also threatens investment in future content. Piracy is any rights holders’ biggest competitor and with online audio-visual consumption the new normal, it’s never been more important to protect content.”