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Piracy - some stats and figures

If you've checked out the latest LF podcast about digital piracy then you'll know this is an issue that isn't going anywhere fast.

Now in terms of film - my personal opinion is that anyone who wants to see a film will go and see a film, as no pirated version of a film can beat the experience of the cinema (especially with the rise of IMAX 3D and viewing in digital). People mostly download the films they are unlikely to watch at the cinema or on DVD/Blu Ray, because paying between £8-15 to see a film in the cinema (or £12-20 on DVD or Blu Ray) is a big gamble if it is a film you're not sure about (not to mention the price of drinks, sweets and popcorn). The other issues with DVDs and to a slightly lesser extent Blu Ray is that they have so little resale value, you shell out money for something that is basically worth nothing within a few months.

Last year I paid full price to see at least eight films that were terrible, and would have seen many more awful films that way if I wasn't fortunate enough to get to go to free previews.

Which is hopefully why the growth of Video On Demand (VOD) channels such as Lovefilm and Netflix in the UK will help films become cheaper and more accessible to watch. Plus Sky, Virgin and BT will hopefully provide more VOD content at cheaper prices.

And I'm not defending the 'download it because it's there' crowd of users out there, but often those that pirate are the same geeks and film fans whose money and time keep the film industry going.

The same big US film makers own the four main chains of cinemas in the UK, so the whole industry is weighted towards the big dumb high grossing action films, and rom-coms those companies want us to see (and i'm not pretending that I don't like the former). As a result hundreds of brilliant, smaller, independent, foreign or just unfashionable films never reach the audience they deserve. In the US, VOD at least gives an outlet to these films and as I've mentioned above that trend will hopefuly follow in the UK, lets hope so.

But the bottom line is in some cases the only way a film gets viewed is if it is downloaded online and whilst all art shouldn't be consumed for free you would at least hope that in most cases if someone pirates a film and likes it they are more likely to buy the film, or pay to watch future work by that director, writer or actors involved. That doesn't stop the most dumb films being the most pirated though.

Interestingly Torrent Freak have provided the below table of the most downloaded films of 2011 and their grossing figures. Now looking at those figures it doesn't seem that those films suffered, but I am not an analyst so I can't say how much more revenue they would have gained or lost if digital piracy hadn't been an option. I also note that at least 40% of the films below were utter rubbish!

Most Downloaded Movies on BitTorrent, 2011
rank movie downloads worldwide grosses


1 Fast Five 9,260,000 $626,137,675
2 The Hangover II 8,840,000 $581,464,305
3 Thor 8,330,000 $449,326,618
4 Source Code 7,910,000 $123,278,618
5 I Am Number Four 7,670,000 $144,500,437
6 Sucker Punch 7,200,000 $89,792,502
7 127 Hours 6,910,000 $60,738,797
8 Rango 6,480,000 $245,155,348
9 The King’s Speech 6,250,000 $414,211,549
10 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 6,030,000 $1,328,111,219

On the other hand there is a vast difference between the most critically lauded films and those most pirated - check out this article from Bleeding Cool

I'm not sure you can take such an optimistically balanced view about video game piracy though as this article probably proves

Here is also an interesting article about comic piracy from Graphic Novel Reporter who went straight to some of the biggest comics publishers out there to find out how they deal with comic piracy

On a final note I don't agree with piracy but I don't think it does as much damage in all instances as the powers that be would have us believe. Ultimately affordability and accessibility in the face of greed is the only way to control piracy.

The one exception to all the above to me is music, as that is a fundementally broken model. Our minds are free, we can consume and follow music from any band nowadays - as the record companies no longer lead us around by our ears and wallets. But this means there is just too much out there and it is harder than ever to decide whose music you should buy and follow! At least Radio hasn't died!

Oh and more from the biggest Torrent site themselves on the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) courtesy again from Torrent Freak! 

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