On Friday February 27th, Netflix released the third season of “House of Cards” for subscribers to binge watch over the weekend. However, according to Variety, almost 700,000 people illegally downloaded the show’s newest season within the first 24 hours of its release. This is twice as many pirates (or illegal downloaders) as the show’s second season and the distribution of downloads was spread throughout the world.
1. China – 60,538
2. US – 50,008
3. India – 47,106
4. Australia – 40,557
5. Poland – 37,552
6. UK – 32,703
7. Canada – 27,584
8. France – 27,151
9. Greece – 20,551
10. Netherlands – 20,402
I would think that Netflix’s content would be pirated less often than most video content, because users can view it anytime and because Netflix allows up to four devices to stream from the same account at the same time. However, residents of five of the top ten countries –China, India, Australia, Poland, and Greece – do not have access to Netflix’s service yet.
Some of these countries do not rank very high in the Global IP Center’s International IP Index, so while an expansion of Netflix’s service could help diminish the number of illegal downloaders, it would not completely eliminate it. Of course, this is obvious because the United States, which ranks first in the International IP Index and where Netflix’s service is prevalent, had the second most illegal downloaders.
Theft of intellectual property should never be excused. With that said, more ubiquitous access to Netflix’s offerings on a legal basis might disincentivize people from pirating content. Not only might Netflix benefit from expanding its service, but artists and creators throughout the world would have a greater incentive to produce more content as piracy decreases.
As for the piracy that is occurring despite access to Netflix’s service, ongoing tools and initiatives, such as WheretoWatch.com, Rightscorp, and Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy, are working to reduce the size and scope of illegal content markets. (See this FSF blog for more.)Netflix does have a plan in place to reach 200 countries by 2017 and hopefully, if implemented, it will reduce the amount of pirated content in the future. Strong IP rights are important for ensuring that content providers, artists, innovators, and marketers can earn a return on their ideas and labor, incentivizing more innovation, investment, and economic growth.