Movie industry unaffected by Bittorrent

Academic research has poured cold water on Big Content’s claim that it is suffering from piracy caused by BitTorrent.

The study Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales, which we spotted on BoingBoing,  has been carried out by economics researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Minnesota.

It shows that politicians should not rush to surrender their citizen’s freedoms to prop up the movie industry.

The study says that US box office returns are not correlated to BitTorrent sharing and that shorter delays between the US exhibition and overseas releases result in less file-sharing.

The movie industry is failing to understand that an effective marketing campaign for a new release in America will stimulate demand in other countries, and if there’s no legitimate way to fulfill demand, then some portion of viewers will choose illegitimate routes, the report said.

The report said that studios were wasting fortunes policing copyrights when they could save it by releasing the content at the same time as the US. At the moment, studios think they are saving money by releasing movies “at the right time” – when their timing is being ignored by pirates who are taking the content rather than waiting.

Consumers in the US, said the report, would generally choose the box office over piracy. If piracy displaced box office sales in the US, the researchers would have expected the slope of the returns profile to shift more significantly as BitTorrent became more widely adopted.

The researchers could not see an irregular drop in returns of domestic box office sales, which could fault BitTorrent.

The report concludes that Big Content would not lose as much money if it released its flicks internationally at the same time.