US Internet Piracy Is On The Rise [STATS]

In 2011, piracy in terms of volume of data used for illegal filesharing grew by more than 20% over 2010.  We calculate that in the US in 2011, there were 132 billion mp3s illegally downloaded and 11 billion movies.

According to Global Internet Spring Report 2011 from Sandvine, in March 2011, P2P filesharing accounted for 61.4% of North America’s daily upstream traffic and overall 18.8% of North American network traffic was used for peer-to-peer file sharing.  In plain english, 61% of all files being uploaded in 2011 in North America were pirated movies, music, television, games, books and software.

On a percentage basis, overall P2P traffic as a percentage of total traffic shrank from 19.2% in 2010, but in that year global internet traffic grew from 20,197 Petabytes to 27,483 Petabytes.  So overall data volume used by P2P continued to grow 20% year over year.  This was widely mischaracterized in the Copyleft press as a decrease in piracy.  On a data volume basis, i.e. number of files downloaded, piracy continues to grow.

Cisco forecasts that P2P will triple between 2010 and 2015.

According to Envisional, all of the top 10,000 torrents (filesharing compilations) that they sampled violated copyright. They found that 35% of BitTorrent traffic is used to illegally upload and download movies (non-pornographic), 14% for television and 2.9% is used to do so with music.

Piracy has grown at more than 20% annually since 2005.

Piracy Growth 2005 to 2011

The chart above was generated from data by Cisco in its “Global IP Traffic Forecast and Methodology, 2006-2011” and featured at  The 2005 data in the chart is actual, the 2010 actual figure exceeded this forecast at 14,955 Petabytes with 24% of global traffic used for P2P in 2010.

Doing the math based on traffic figures supplied by Cisco (CSCO), this leads to some staggering numbers of copyright violations per household in the United States.(1) If every household were participating, and if each transaction requires one upload and one download, that would mean that on average, US households illegally download 132 movies each year. In other words, every household watches a movie illegally every five days on average. If half the households are participating, this means that they watched an illegal movie every 2.5 days.

(1) Cisco states that North America used an average of 9,947 Petabytes (1 million Gigabytes) a month in 2011, which would mean that 7,899 Petabytes were used to illegally use movies, 3,141 Petabytes to illegally use television shows and 650 Petabytes were used by illegal music consumption in 2011. Assume that the average movie is 700 Megabytes. If we divide 7,899 Petabytes (1 million Gigabytes) by 700 Megabytes, we get 11.2 billion movies uploaded and downloaded illegally in 2011 (infringements). If we divide 11.2 billion movie infringements by 85 million broadband subscribers in the United States, we get an average of 132 movies uploaded and downloaded per household in the United States in 2011.  If we divide 650 Petabytes by an average mp3 file size of 5 Mb, we get 132 billion mp3s downloaded in 2011.  If we divide 132 billion mp3s by 85 million broadband households, we get an average of 1,531 mp3s downloaded per US household in 2011.  The most popular illegal downloads in 2011 were entire artist discographies and “top 500″ compilations which are usually compose of hundreds of songs.  It would only take an average of five such downloads per household to explain this figure.

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