Spain Hits New High in Piracy, Study Says

Empty Movie Theater - Generic Image - 2011
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Figures include illegally downloaded series and soccer matches for first time.

Piracy in Spain hit new highs in 2014, with nearly 88 percent of all digital content consumed being obtained illegally, according to a study released this week. The same figure in 2013 was 84 percent.

Some 4.3 billion connections to pirated content caused an estimated loss of $1.8 billion (€1.7 billion) for rights holders, according to the study of Piracy and Digital Content Consumer Habits, conducted by GFK for the Coalition Against Piracy.

“These figures confirm the urgent need to apply recently modified legislation with maximum rigor,” said Carlota Navarrete, the director of the coalition.

For the first time ever, the study included television series and the Spanish professional soccer league’s matches.

Movies accounted for 38 percent of the pirated material and were the hardest hit, with illegal downloads worth an estimated $604 million (€571 million). Given the industry’s present earnings of $711 million (€673 million), the potential industry’s earnings could have been $1.26 billion (€1.2 billion) without piracy. Only 9 percent of users access digital film content legally in Spain. More than 35 percent of the films downloaded were still in theaters.

Music accounted for 24 percent of the illegal downloads and an estimated $433 million (€410 million). Some 1.8 billion files were illegally downloaded compared to 2013’s 1.97 billion, representing a slight drop from 27 percent to 21 percent of the sector’s value.

Series were 26 percent of the illegal downloads in 2014 and worth some $175 million (€166 million) in lost revenues for rights holders. The study said that 41.5 percent of the illegal downloads took place while the series was in its airing period.

In 2014, a total of 139 million soccer matches were watched illegally in more than 1.8 million Spanish homes, with an estimated market value of $538 million (€509 million).

According to the study, Spaniards justify their piracy primarily with the excuse “I pay for my Internet connection” and “I don’t want to pay for content that I might not like.”

The study found that users access illegal content mostly by using search engines, with Google being the main choice nine out of 10 times.

More than 70 percent of the websites offering illegal content are financed by advertising, with 70 percent linking to betting and gaming sites.

The GFK study highlighted that the Spanish treasury lost $363 million (€343.7 million) in taxes and $232 million (€219.3 million) in Social Security due to the lack of legal revenues caused by piracy.

In October, Spain passed the much-debated IP law — known as the Google Tax. The film and television industries have long decried rampant piracy in Spain, but complained that loopholes and vague wording, in addition to a skewed focus, debilitated the law and would make it ineffective.

Google News followed the law’s approval with its announcement that it would pull out of Spain. The law took effect on Jan. 1 of this year.