English: Logo from the television program Game...

Game of Thrones topped TV piracy lists for the third year in a row (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So says the (depressingly familiar) list of titles earning the dubious “honor” of most pirated TV shows and movies of the year.

Comparisons to the most pirated titles of 2013 reveal a number of popular shows and films for which copyright protection efforts must do more to stem the tide of piracy.


Top 5 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2014

1. Game of Thrones: 8.1 million downloads

2. The Walking Dead: 4.8 million

3. The Big Bang Theory: 3.9 million

4. How I Met Your Mother: 3.5 million

5. Gotham: 3.2 million

“Game of Thrones,” for example, tops the list of pirated TV shows for a third consecutive year, with its 8.1 million downloads almost doubling the amount of illegal access that first brought HBO’s exclusive original series to torrent charts in 2012. The fact that it was only narrowly second in 2011 demonstrates just how long the show has been plagued by piracy.

It will be interesting to see if HBO’s expected roll out its own video on-demand (VOD) service is able to make a dent in the ever-increasing levels of infringement. If 2014 has been the year that VOD claimed its place alongside traditional television broadcasting as a viable long term business model for its industry, 2015 could prove to ¬†be the year such services become the norm and reclaim some of the viewership lost to illegal channels that filled the void before licensed services came to prominence.


Top 5 Most Pirated Movies of 2014

1. The Wolf of Wall Street: 30 million downloads

2. Frozen: 29.9 million

3. RoboCop*: 29.8 million (combined 1987 release and 2014 release)

4. Gravity: 29.3 million

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 27.6 million

For Hollywood, the appearance of another Tolkien-based title on the annual movie piracy list is as expected as it is unwelcome. The second release in the Hobbit trilogy , “The Desolation of Smaug,” was downloaded more than 27 million times, following in the footsteps of “An Unexpected Journey,” which topped the list last year.

The fall from top spot will be of little comfort to its creators, as other popular titles like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Disney’s “Frozen” take its place but with illegal download¬† numbers up overall.

Even with the extensive legal resources of a studio like Disney it has proved impossible to eliminate the activity of illegal sharing sites. Although the recent take down of The Pirate Bay offers some hope to this end, others still spring up in its place and responsibility falls to search engines and other gateways to limit the visibility of sites that provide such illegal access.

2015 promises to be another year in which the ongoing war of attrition with pirates continues to swing back and forth. While we expect to see some of the same names on next year’s list, if the levels of illegal downloads can be curbed and some of these viewers brought back to legitimate, safe and reliable points of online access, then the long term outlook may become brighter for creators of the most popular modern movies and TV shows.