Image via warriorwoman531 on Flickr
Image via warriorwoman531 on Flickr

Online piracy seems to be thriving –and some of the companies which create original shows do not take the pirated content too seriously.

Just look at the wildly popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Recent news reports called it the most pirated television series. If that were not enough, the piracy for the premiere of the fourth season has set a record for the first 24 hours on the Internet.

But rather than being concerned, or opting to take action against the illegal viewers, top brass at HBO appear thrilled with the publicity.

Last year, when similar concerns were reported, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, which is HBO’s parent company, told investors, “If you go around the world, I think… that ‘Game of Thrones’ is the most pirated show in the world. … Now that’s better than an Emmy.”

So for this year’s premiere, it looks like viewers were given basically free rein to watch the pirated versions.

Excipio provides some relevant data on the recent fourth series premiere. The firm said there were 1.17 million unique IP addresses accessing torrents of the premiere after being on the Internet for 15 hours.

The old record was believed to be for the third-season premiere of the show. Excipio said the third season premiere last year saw 1.15 million unique IP addresses accessing torrents.

And just who is watching the pirated show? The largest share of the viewers was from United States. In data reported by Variety, Excipio said Americans came in with 198,000 unique IP addresses, which is about 17 percent of the total. Next was Australia with about 187,000 viewers. Canada came in third with about 93,000 viewers.

On Sunday, “Games of Thrones” viewers found they could not gain access to the show online due to intense demand.

“HBO Go did experience issues due to overwhelming demand around the premiere of Game of Thrones,” HBO confirmed in a statement.

Meanwhile, last year The Wall Street Journal estimated that some 11 million HBO subscribers watched “Game of Thrones” legally. The number of viewers watching it illegally online – was between 3.7 million and 4.2 million. The Washington Post speculated the large number of pirated viewers may actually be helping the show achieve its strong DVD sales.

And so far, instead of prosecution, Australian viewers of the pirated versions basically were issued a polite request in 2013 by the then U.S. Ambassador to Australia – to stop it.

“TorrentFreak estimated that Game of Thrones was the most-pirated TV series of 2012,” Jeffrey Bleich said in a Facebook post, which appeared a year ago. “One episode was illegally downloaded about 4,280,000 times through public BitTorrent trackers in 2012, which is about equal to the number of that episode’s broadcast viewers.  In other words, about half of that episode’s viewers stole the program from HBO.  As the Ambassador here in Australia, it was especially troubling to find out that Australian fans were some of the worst offenders with among the highest piracy rates of Game of Thrones in the world. … (T)he show is now available from legitimate sources within hours of its broadcast in the United States.”

Bleich is now back to being a lawyer at Munger, Tolles & Olson in San Francisco. He handles international litigation cases. It does not sound like he will be suing the viewers of pirated versions of “Game of Thrones” – anytime soon.

Compare that to 2010, when independent film producers sued more than 20,000 individual downloaders of movie torrents in just a few weeks, Inside Counsel reported.

Film-industry backed legislation, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, was blocked in Congress in 2012. Opponents such as Google and Wikipedia claimed the legislation would violate Internet freedom, news reports said.

In addition, last year NetNames reported the number of people infringing copyrights has jumped. In January 2013, 327 million unique users illegally went after copyrighted content, representing a 10 percent increase from November 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported based on NetNames data.


Further reading:

MPAA sues largest U.K. ISP in copyright case

Movie Download Litigation Wave 

Megaupload user data may be deleted this week