Every few months, Hollywood is making yet another push for stronger copyright laws and more restrictive trade agreements. First, there were SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, and now there is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But new data from Ericsson’s ConsumerLab research unit shows that Hollywood may have gotten it all backwards. The most successful weapon in the fight against piracy aren’t new laws, but better services.
Case in point: Less than 15 percent of U.S.-based online video viewers use file sharing for their movies and TV show fix, according to Ericsson’s TV & Video Consumer Trend Report 2012 (PDF). Netflix on the other hand is used by around 55 percent. Hulu, websites of TV networks, iTunes and Amazon’s VOD offering are also more popular than piracy.
Compare that to Spain, where legal services are still in their infancy: Spanish online video users primarily access their shows and movies through “other means,” which likely stands for unlicensed streaming sites. File sharing is also hugely popular, and being used by more than 30 percent of all users. Licensed services on the other hand are far less popular, with none of them attracting more than 15 percent of all users.
So what should Hollywood do to fight piracy? One easy fix would be to license more content to Netflix and its competitors, and put up fewer restrictions on accessing this type of content.
However, in the U.S., the industry is actually moving into the opposite direction: Last fall, Fox began delaying access to its TV shows on Fox.com and Hulu.com for people who can’t authenticate themselves as subscribers of affiliated pay TV providers or Hulu Plus. It’s difficult to draw conclusions about the effect of these measures from Ericsson’s numbers, but it’s notable that both Hulu’s numbers and the use of TV networks’ websites went down when compared to 2011. Piracy and “other” means to access content on the other hand grew slightly.
It’s too early to tell whether the industry’s love affair with TV Everywhere is driving viewers back to piracy – but on a global level, the message seems clear: Instead of forcing countries to adopt ever stricter copyright laws, Hollywood would be well-advised to help services like Netflix and Hulu with their international expansion.