Imports of counterfeit and pirated goods in 2019 were worth EUR 119 billion, representing 5.8 % of all goods entering the European Union (EU), according to the report Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2022.
The report is based on data from across the EU as well as Europol’s operational information, and confirms that counterfeiting and piracy continue to pose a serious threat to the health and safety of consumers, as well as to the European economy.
The report provides a comprehensive survey of counterfeits and infringement across all categories of goods and services, and not limited to infringing activity relating to media and entertainment content, services or media-capable devices.
Specifics for media piracy
Specific to piracy of digital media goods and services, the report found that while avenues of piracy are numerous, piracy itself is now almost exclusively a digital crime as the distribution of physical copies of audio-visual content has almost entirely disappeared.
Pirates responded quickly to ballooning demand for media and entertainment programming from the outset of the COVID pandemic, but also notes that, in the longer view, piracy is actually trending downward. The report also anticipates a continuing increase in demand for illicit streaming devices in the region.
Analysis of piracy-related conversations on social media revealed a temporary increase immediately upon the introduction oflockdowns in 2020, and a return to normal levels in June 2020.
Accurate portrayal of piracy as an industry
The report concludes that digital piracy is a lucrative market for criminals with limited risk of detection and low penalties. Criminals providing illegal IPTV services generate nearly EUR 1 billion in unlawful revenue for the EU.
It provides an accurate portrayal of digital media piracy as an industry:
“The criminals involved are adept at using advanced technical countermeasures to avoid law enforcement. In some cases, digital content piracy is linked to other cybercrime activities such as crypto-jacking or the distribution of malware. Criminals are involved in these activities as part of a number of roles, such as customer support, website and server administrators, contentcollectors, storage and network infrastructure experts. Much of the criminal profit is generated by online advertising, paid subscriptions and malware attacks. Websites offering pirated content accept donations via torrent sites (mainly in cryptocurrencies)”
Read the EUROPOL press release
Download the Executive Summary (PDF)
Download the entire Report, Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment (PDF)
Why it matters
The report, produced jointly between Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), characterizes the current scope, magnitude and trends for counterfeiting and piracy in the EU. It comes on the heels of the 2021 Notorious Markets List report from the US government, which was released in February 2022.
Regional governmental, judicial and law enforcement agencies produce comparatively neutral assessments of copyright and counterfeiting issues, balancing and validating privately-produced assessments that are often backed by commercial interests.
This report defined piracy as “illegally copying and selling physical goods such as copies of copyright content in the form of CDs and DVDs; replica design objects; Technological Protection Measures (TPM) circumvention devices; TV decoder smartcards; fully loaded set-top boxes or sticks; digital content, such as copied software, activation keys for software, video games or databases; hacked accounts for streaming services; Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files; and e-books.”