Websites selling pirated digital content or counterfeit goods cost industry $200 billion (€154 billion) annually – and most are hosted in Western Europe or North America.
Research by enterprise brand protection firm MarkMonitor found that 67% of suspected pirate content sites and 73% of those selling counterfeit goods are hosted in the two markets, and that the sites are generating huge numbers of clicks globally.
The firm discovered that illegal sites attracted 53 billion hits in 2010, after examining 22 brands offering prescription drugs, luxury goods, music, films and athletic gear.
It concedes the study provides only a snapshot of the situation, stating the true scope of online IP theft and illegal e-commerce transactions is likely much higher.
Some 21 billion visits were generated by three sites – RapidShare, Megavideo and Megaupload – alone, the BBC reports.
The US Chamber of Commerce commissioned the research amid growing concern from businesses in the country.
Steve Tepp, senior director of the Chamber’s internet counterfeiting and piracy department, said the results are “staggering.”
“The MarkMonitor study is just the tip of the iceberg, identifying only a portion of the colossal amount of Internet traffic related to online counterfeiting and digital piracy.”
MarkMonitor’s marketing chief Frederick Felman said the results will help to develop effective and more-targeted anti-piracy solutions. “Examining traffic patterns and geographic information are vital in identifying and prioritizing enforcement actions, rather than playing ‘whack-a-mole’ with egregious offenders.”