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Spain: ‘Tipping point’ in anti-piracy battle

September 15, 2022

By Colin Mann

For the seventh consecutive year, digital piracy in Spain has experienced a drop in absolute numbers, which indicate that a tipping point has been reached. Since 2018, it has registered an accumulated decrease of 20 per cent. In 2021, access to illegal content reflected a reduction of 8 per cent, although the volume of cultural products obtained illegally amounted to 5.334 billion, with a market value of €32.492 billion.

The loss to the industries was €2.271 billion, which also affected public coffers, which stopped receiving €653 million in 2021, which amounts to almost €6 billion that the Administration had been deprived of over the last 10 years for VAT, personal income tax and contributions to Social Security. The other great loser has turned out to be employment, since piracy has prevented the creation of 18,716 direct jobs in 2021 (112,299 between direct and indirect).

These are some of the most relevant figures from the Observatorio de piratería y hábitos de consumo de contenidos digitales 2021, (2021 Digital Content Piracy and Consumption Habits Observatory), prepared by the independent consulting firm GfK at the request of the Coalición de Creadores e Industrias de Contenidos (Coalition of Content Creators and Industries).

Regarding the percentages of individuals who carry out illicit access, the most affected industry has been music, with 38 per cent of consumers, followed by books (34 per cent, 1 per cent more than in 2020), movies (25 per cent) , newspapers (23 per cent), series (20 per cent), video games (18 per cent), magazines (16 per cent), football (9 per cent) and scores (5 per cent, 15 per cent more than in 2020) .

The total value of the content amounts to €30.892 billion, of which €10.035 billion relate to music. In fact, it has been the music industry that has suffered the most damage

Among the motivations that consumers admit to explain illicit access to content, the first are economic and the second, the ease with which they access them. According to the Coalición, it is relevant, as well as very worrying, the increase in users who confess that they do not know how to distinguish between platforms that are legal and those that are not: five out of 10, when in 2020 it was four out of 10. There is also an increase in those who take refuge in the absence of legal consequences for pirates (32 per cent) and those who consider that cultural products are expensive and hence their attitude persist (54 per cent).

“These figures reinforce the need to deploy greater efforts to prevent illicit content from being accessible and also to intensify the work of raising awareness by the sector and public authorities,” says the Coalición.

Access to illegal content continues to be made to a greater extent through search engines (55 per cent), mainly through Google (94 per cent, that is, more than nine out of 10 accesses), but 2021 has once again confirmed a trend that was already observed in 2020: the decrease in the use of search engines has been transferred to social networks. And although Facebook and YouTube are still the most used by consumers, Telegram (33 per cent) has significantly climbed its position, to the point of unseating others, such as WhatsApp, Instagram or Twitter. In addition, other increasingly popular ones, such as Dailymotion, register significant increases.

As noted, search engines continue to be the gateway to illegal content, although to a lesser extent than in 2020 (from 58 to 55 per cent). There has been an escalation of social networks (from 27 per cent to 29 per cent) and direct download systems (from 24 to 27 per cent), while Apps and streaming maintain the percentages of 2020. In the case of online streaming, it is detecting that it has slowed down the consecutive rise recorded in the previous five years.

With regard to social networks, the great beneficiaries of the change in user trends, the notable increase in Telegram stands out (from 25 to 33 per cent), which exceeds WhatsApp (31 per cent), Instagram (26 per cent) or Twitter (26 per cent). The preponderant ones, Facebook and YouTube, show a slight setback.

Regarding the equipment available to users, the figures are very similar to those of 2020: two out of 10 have an IPTV decoder (in 2020 there were almost 3) and 22 per cent have accessed a VPN for personal use (21  per cent in 2020). Similarly, the number of Internet users who have resorted to tutorials to learn how to access content that interests them and for which they do not want to pay remains at 40 per cent. The queries are directed mostly to downloading music (42 per cent), movies/series (41 per cent), obtaining and using a VPN (31 per cent), followed by video games (28 per cent), books, newspapers, magazines or scores (21 per cent), modifying a console (19 per cent), the use of an IPTV (16 per cent), football (13 per cent) and the use of card sharing (4 per cent).

The main source of financing for illegal content portals continues to be advertising, present in nine out of 10 of these websites, as in past years. Advertising mostly for online betting/gaming (45 per cent), online sales (39 per cent), contacts/dating (33 per cent) and reputable trademarks (31 per cent). Hence the urgent need to find public-private channels of collaboration with the advertising sector in the certainty that its contribution is absolutely decisive in eradicating the main source of money entering these portals.

In 2021 there was a significant increase in the number of Internet users who have paid for the consumption of some content: one in four (24 per cent compared to 20 per cent in 2020). In addition, there has been an increase in less transparent payment methods – PayPal (44 per cent) and cryptocurrencies (11 per cent)- and a decrease in the use of bank cards (45 per cent by 49 per cent in 2020).

In addition to having advertising financing or direct payment, websites with illegal content resort more and more, in these times of metadata, to obtaining data from their users to trade massively with them later. In fact, seven out of 10 consumers who have accessed illegal content have had to register, providing personal information (mail, questionnaire and telephone) and nine out of 10 have been asked to accept cookies .

According to the Coalición, the upside is that five out of 10 clearly express their mistrust of these portals when it comes to providing information: since 2019, mistrust of these portals has grown to 47 per cent currently.

Closing/blocking access to websites with illicit content continues to be the measure considered most effective by users. Even so, 77 per cent consider that closing or blocking is quite or very effective. The sanction of Internet providers, such as telecommunications operators, portals and any Internet access service intermediary, is valued as quite or very effective by 70 per cent, while 54 per cent continue to estimate the need for social awareness.

“I am proud to announce that we have reached the tipping point in the fight against piracy,” declared Carlota Navarrete, director general of the Coalición. “We have been on a downward trend since 2018, with a cumulative decline since then of 20 per cent. For years we had an upward trend, but now, thanks to the efforts of the Administration, the legislative and judicial power, the State Security Forces and Bodies, the initiatives of the sector and the awareness of the citizenry, in which it has been relevant support from the media, this improvement has been achieved. But we must not forget the damage that continues to be caused to the content industries, to employment and to the collection of public coffers. For this reason, we insist on the need to continue reinforcing each of the measures and resources to face this scourge.”

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