We know Internet piracy is not a victimless crime, yet most people who commit online theft never see the effects of their actions, nor are they directly affected themselves. There are, however, subtle ways pirating can cost you money in the long run.

Pirating by the Numbers

Each year, the amount of online piracy rises substantially with over 95 percent of all music downloads being performed illegally. According to the International Chamber of Commerce, international piracy drained $1 trillion dollars from the global economy while eliminating over 2.5 million jobs. An estimated 327 million Internet users engage in infringement of online content at least once a month.

Illegal movie downloads are so significant that Netflix monitors them to determine which movies to add to its programming options. Clearly, illegally obtaining entertainment and software online has become a significant part of Internet culture.

How does this affect you?

If you’re searching for a way that you’re directly affected by others pirating, there’s not going to be a glaring answer. And the days of worrying about being hauled off to jail for illegally downloading the new Maroon 5 song are past, so that’s not the direct threat either.

There are few instances in which someone has pirated content and experienced a tangible cost because of it. Aside from losing a lawsuit, which can cost upwards of $675,000, there are not many ways in which you will lose a substantial amount by illegally pursuing online content.

But you can certainly see the far-reaching impacts on consumers. When you download something illegally, it removes income from the creator and distributors’ pockets, regardless of how miniscule an amount. This leads to employees losing their jobs due to lack of sales in their business, reducing these people’s spending power and financial contributions to the economy. A lack of spending causes prices to rise to make up the difference, which means you have to spend more money for basic supplies.

Beyond this, illegally downloading content over an unsecured server opens you up to the risk of getting malware and other harmful programs on your computer. This isn’t only detrimental to your computer and the files on it, but you’ll likely end up spending money to have the harmful software removed.

What about the future?

Most content creators have little recourse when it comes to pursuing people who pirate their content. As the Internet expands and new software programs emerge, there is not much to be done to control Internet piracy. If bit torrents and similar download services were shut down, some crafty user would develop another way to download things illegally. Just take a look at the history of music downloading services, dating back to Napster.

Most businesses already recognize this, and have adapted accordingly. Sites like Netflix have used lowering prices and convenience to combat piracy. Streaming music sites like Pandora and Spotify made music more accessible and piracy unnecessary for many people, while iTunes provides individual songs or full albums at affordable rates. In some ways, piracy helped people save money by forcing industries to lower prices.

Does the fact that businesses are adjusting to accommodate online piracy make it right? Probably not. But whether or not it is morally acceptable has clearly had no impact on preventing people from doing it.