CYBERCRIME | Online piracy in PH persists

The Philippine industry association of video producers, distributors, and aggregators lost at least P1 billion in potential revenues in 2020.

Online piracy

A robust and inclusive Philippine economy may significantly curb online content piracy. It will also give consumers more discretionary funds to spend on online services, which in turn, could lessen their motivation to consume illegal content.

This was pointed out by Anton Bonifacio, Globe chief information security officer, during a regional workshop hosted by North American Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA) and the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA). The event aimed to increase collaboration to combat illegal content, which is a major concern for developing and first-world countries.

Based on a study by Media Partners Asia, it is estimated that the Philippine industry association of video producers, distributors, and aggregators lost at least 1 billion in potential revenues in 2020. Video piracy remained prevalent in the country, with nearly half of online Filipinos consuming illegal content. Approximately 40 percent of people engaged in the local and media entertainment industry are currently jobless, further dragging the economy.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce’s media piracy statistics for 2019, TV and film piracy alone costs the industry between $29 billion and $71 billion every year, resulting in up to 560,000 job losses. This has reduced the gross domestic product of the US by at least $115.3 billion yearly.

“Lockdowns have resulted in major changes in online behavior and the way media is consumed,” Bonifacio said. “As Filipinos shift to a digital lifestyle and consume more Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) content away from traditional media, demand for pirated sources has likewise grown. Many Filipinos turn to illegal streaming sources for movies, TV shows, games, sports, and music to avoid paying for multiple subscriptions since most need to prioritize essentials over payments to entertainment services.”

However, if there is a strong economy, more and better jobs will provide people with higher spending power, encouraging consumers to stick to legitimate content providers. More importantly, this will allow jobs in the media and the entertainment industry and related services to be restored.

“Digital piracy is not just a loss for companies like Globe or our content partners,” Bonifacio said. “It impacts an extended local supply chain that includes people behind and in front of cameras. Thousands of Filipinos have already lost their jobs due to piracy even before the pandemic. When one sector is not doing well, this is not good for the overall economy. Online piracy is a vicious cycle since its prevalence deprives ordinary Filipinos of job opportunities which in turn fuels more piracy and illegal acts.”

For instance, the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which was presented through a virtual platform, only reached P31 million in gross revenue, a far cry from the P955 million reported in 2019. One of the reasons was that pirated copies were immediately sold for P10 each versus the ticket price of P250 when the MMFF films became available online.

Beyond specific industries, online piracy impacts ordinary Filipinos since it robs the government of much-needed revenues that could be used for health care, online learning, infrastructure, and other public services, especially with quarantine restrictions in place.

The same lockdowns harm the Philippine economy, which already contracted by 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Household spending, a significant driver of the economy, also decreased by 4.8 percent over the same period.

“We take the holistic view that the economic empowerment of a larger population lessens piracy and its attendant risks – malware, ransomware, and inappropriate content. This is why Globe has been doing its part to combat piracy so we can get the economy back on track and help people regain their livelihood and dignity,” Bonifacio said.

As a strong anti-piracy advocate, Globe continues to do its share in curbing the practice. This includes programs to educate the public on the impacts and dangers of consuming illegal content, blocking illegal streaming sites from its network, and the bundling of SVOD services to make them more affordable and accessible.

“As a strong enabler of the digital economy, we will continue to provide and push for more solutions to help Filipinos rebound and recover from this pandemic,” Bonifacio said.

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