The History of Internet Piracy

Piracy has existed online since the beginning of the internet.

Several events and technologies have created the foundation for what we know as Internet piracy today.

Streaming 'RealAudio':

In 1995, a technology company called RealNetworks Inc released 'RealAudio 1.0'.

This technology provided the ability for anyone to stream audio files at the click of a button, instead of waiting to download the file.

This became a popular way to access music, but the streaming technology had its limits.

Limited sound quality discouraged some users, as well as it not allowing people to download the content or save the files.

P2P Music Sharing Platforms:

A major player and commonly known organisation called 'Napster', was created in 1999 to let people download songs for free.

The technology used to share and download music files on Napster is known as 'P2P' (peer to peer) and still exists in a similar form today. It is still commonly used as the primary method for operating download and sharing activities for much larger files on torrenting sites.

Napster was sued by the RIAA on December 7, 1999 and by February 12, 2001, Napster stopped allowing access to copyright protected music.

In an effort to profit from Napster's popularity, Best Buy purchased the platform for $121 million.

If you visit Napster today, you will see that it is no longer a piracy download service, instead it now works in cooperation with music labels and provides music streaming, but it is not free.

Although the music industry succeeded in beating Napster legally, it did not prevent piracy from continuing to grow.

Shortly after Napster stopped operating as a piracy P2P platform, numerous other platforms with the same technology popped up to fill the void. 'Kazaar' and others managed to provide the same service as Napster and succeeded for a short time, until also being shut down.

Evolution from Dial-Up to Broadband — Faster Speed & Bigger Files:

As the world went from dial-up internet onto higher and higher speed broadband internet, the sharing of larger files was made possible.

Music piracy thrived even during the dial-up era, because the size of audio files was low in comparison to other formats.

Higher speed internet connection facilitated the sharing of much larger files, now multi-gigabyte videos are easy to share, making film, game and software piracy surge in popularity.

For many years, official rights owners, such as music labels and movie studios resisted any changes to their old model of selling physical products like CD's and VHS Tapes/ DVD's in brick and mortar stores.

Some major artists, like Billy Corgan from Rock Band 'The Smashing Pumpkins' attempted to encourage these large corporations to incorporate the internet file sharing technology into legitimate business models and adapt to the new reality of a digitally connected world, but it took many years before any progress was made towards creating legitimate internet content platforms.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and his team at Apple created the online music store iTunes, which was adopted by music labels largely due to the increasing success of the iPod. This was a pay-per-song platform which initially thrived, but did little to stop music piracy overall.

Streaming technologies and P2P pirate sites continued to make it easy to access content of all types from anywhere. The convenience and abundance of choice offered by piracy technologies was the foundation for more recent legitimate streaming platforms.

Sean Parker, the cofounder of Napster, went on to create one of today's most successful and legitimate, pioneering music subscription services — Spotify. Since then consumers have a choice of multiple billion dollar streaming platforms, from Amazon Music, Youtube Music, Apple Music and others. In addition, legitimate movie streaming and gaming platforms have exploded in popularity.

Even though numerous legitimate options are available to consumers, piracy still continues to exist online and there are no signs that it will stop entirely.

Important Data

Approximately 375,000 jobs are lost each year due to internet piracy. This number is USA only, the amount of job losses worldwide is much higher.

We estimate that around $50 billion is lost globally each year, with $26 billion lost to the USA economy.

Although we estimate that there are approximately 2 million piracy sites (including mirror sites) online today, the most profitable of them make their money from promoting large online gambling platforms and sharing a percentage of users gambling losses. Many experts consider these gambling companies to be entirely criminal in nature, while others say they are partly legitimate and just have no problem accepting traffic from any type of website, even if it's a piracy site. As piracy sites often attract millions of daily visitors, some gambling platforms take advantage of this traffic to drive revenue.

According to numerous experts, 24% of the internet is used to download illegal content. However that number is likely to have grown significantly, because the last accurate study was conducted in 2011. Since then, both the amount of people with access to the internet and the average speed of internet have increased significantly. The large percentage of internet use may be driven by social perspective, with 70% of Americans and Spanish citizens believing that using illegitimate music or movie streaming sites is completely legal.

High speed internet has made many physical products, such as paper books, CD's and DVD's almost redundant. With most formats now accessible as purely digital files. Everything from software to images and high-definition video can be downloaded in a few minutes (depending on internet speed). This ease of access and speed of delivery make physical products seem impractical, additionally, when the products people want can be accessed quickly without paying, it becomes a difficult problem for content creators to stop. Increasing internet speed in particular, is the key contributing factor to video and software piracy, because these formats typically have larger file sizes than image and audio files. Music is most often accessible in small digital files, which allowed music piracy to spread even in the slow 'dial-up' era of the internet. In the future, internet speed will continue to increase, making even larger files quicker to download.

The majority of internet piracy is done by torrenting. Torrents allow users to share files between each others devices (peer-to-peer / P2P). Torrenting websites don't typically store infringing files on their servers, instead they simply index each users list of files which are copied from computer to computer. Torrenting has become extremely popular, with hundreds of millions of visitors regularly using torrent indexing sites to access digital files for free each week.

Cyber lockers can be described as free or paid services which allow internet users to download files from cyber locker servers. Popular cyber lockers offer access to small size files for free, but charge a monthly fee to users who want to download large files as quickly as possible.

Copyright Education

Copyright Explained Simply

Understanding The Reality Of Copyright As A Digital Creator

Looking At Copyright Online

Copyright Infringement Overview

The Facts Show That Piracy Existed From The Start Of The Internet

Examining The State Of Current Piracy

What To Expect In The Future


Common misconceptions about what copyright can protect..

Trademark is often thought of as being the same as copyright, but there are some important differences..

Patents are not the same as copyright, there are several key differences..

Unfortunately the "poor man's copyright method" is not a valid substitute for copyright registration, it is the process of sending yourself your own creation/s through the mail.

Even though copyright exists at the moment of creation, the value of registering is being able to prove ownership..

The original authorship and expression of works appearing on a website may be protected by copyright, but not the website itself..

No, copyright law does not cover domain names alone, but copyright protected works can be located on a website of your choice if you own the copyright..

Logo's may be eligible for copyright registration and potentially trademark as well. Copyright law doesn't cover slogans, in some cases they may qualify for trademark registration..

Studies reveal that 7 out of 10 people in America think piracy based activity is legal, selling pirated products may be part of this. We encourage all rights owners to take appropriate action against infringements..

During the Covid-19 pandemic, piracy did increase. It's likely that if more pandemics occur in future that it will rise as well, due to the increase in the number of people using the internet from home..

You can try to contact us if you feel that your application was denied unfairly, however there is no guarantee that we will certify you..

Copyright Topics

Piracy spikes during Covid-19 pandemic, future lock-downs could add further damage..

Creatives are honoured by US Institution..

Pirates have attempted to change perception on the right to sell 'backup copies' of digital files..

To find copyright records enter the 'Case File Number' in the search box. Or ask the copyright owner to provide you with a direct link. Our records contain personal information about verified copyright owners — out of respect and privacy concerns, we put some restrictions on open access to prevent scraping and other data harvesting activities..

Regulations & Admin

Administrative reports annually..

Possible updates to MMA TP..

Copyright Office reports on technology..

Abuse of our staff will not be tolerated..

You should always ask the copyright owner for permission before proceeding..

Principles & Standards

The application process can be difficult, but in the interests of preventing fraud, we will continue to stringently check each application, in addition to requiring sworn legal affidavits from each claimant & their legal agent..

Your data is kept safe under our 'safe-search' policy, the data required to apply is analysed and only the essential data points are included on your certificate..

Signed, sworn affidavits strengthen the right to copyright ownership because they ensure the claimant is accountable under the law to provide complete and accurate statements on the record..

A Closer Look

Open discussion on the potential for A.I in the copyright world..

World Intellectual Property Day Lecture

Online video learning platforms under growing threat from piracy..

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