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Piracy levels have spiralled during the coronavirus lockdown

Social distancing and the so-called “lockdown” have worked wonders for Netflix’s subscriber numbers and, to nobody’s surprise, it looks like piracy sites are also experiencing massive growth.

The UK’s lockdown measures were announced on March 16, and piracy tracking firm MUSO says it recorded 35,262,627 visits to illegal film streaming and torrent sites in the UK during February (a daily average of 1,215,953), and 46,230,266 visits in March (a daily average of 1,491,299). That represents a whopping 31.1% increase in film piracy levels.

But the rise is even starker when you compare the stats for the last week of March to those for the last week of February.

MUSO detected 8,180,350 visits to illegal film streaming and torrent sites in the UK during the final week of February, compared to 11,658,856 for the final week of March − a 42.52% climb.

“Piracy or unlicensed consumption trends are closely linked to paid-for or licensed content. So, just as Netflix has seen large subscriber gains, we have seen a significant spike in visits to film piracy sites,” said Andy Chatterley, the CEO of MUSO.

Because almost all live sport has been cancelled, the drop in visitors to illegal sports streaming sites has been even more dramatic. Visitor numbers fell by 54.13% in the UK from February to March.

However, MUSO detected just a 2% overall decrease in the amount of visitors to illegal TV streaming and torrent sites (which includes sports), suggesting that while sports piracy has plummeted, piracy of TV shows has skyrocketed by nearly the same level.

“This unprecedented increase in visits to online film piracy sites in the last week of March reveals that as more countries enforced lockdown and required citizens to self-isolate, demand for content via piracy grew exponentially,” said MUSO.

Related: Disney Plus vs Netflix

Over the weekend, Europol tried to warn the public off illegal streaming sites. “Criminals are quickly adapting their activities, offering high-quality stream[s] while legitimate providers have agreed to reduce stream quality due to EU broadband overload,” it said.