MPAA Fears Economic Downturn Will Boost Piracy

Following the banks and the car companies, the movie industry might be the next to be hit by the economic downturn. No bail-out plan has been suggested as of yet, but MPAA chairman Dan Glickman is worried that piracy will grow to a new high during the current financial crisis - and he might just have a point there.

If everything the MPAA said was true actually turned out to be true, the movie industry would have been bankrupt years ago. In 2005 the organization funded a study which claimed that in the US alone, over $6 billion was lost to MPAA members due to piracy. However, the figures and data behind those claims have never been publicly released, and it later became apparent that they were not completely accurate.

In fact, earlier this year the MPAA had to release a statement saying ‘they made a mistake’ in the figures. Nevertheless, the $6 billion figure in question has been quoted a lot, with MPAA chairman Dan Glickman still using it in almost every public talk, to convince his listeners of the seriousness of the ‘piracy’ issue. According to the MPAA there is more bad weather ahead, as it is now worried that piracy might flourish in the current financial climate.

“If you look at the situation, the current economic crisis makes this problem much more serious than before,” Glickman said recently at a forum, adding, “If we don’t protect IPR (intellectual property rights), our economic losses will be far worse.” The MPAA will of course leave no excuse unused to justify its anti-piracy measures, nothing new there. Although there are no studies that show how illegal downloads actually affect sales at the box office, there has been a significant bump in the number of BitTorrent users recently.

One should always be cautious to interpret these two events as having a causal relationship. However, after several months of relatively slow growth, BitTorrent sites have seen a dramatic increase in visitor numbers this fall. Since September, the number of peers tracked by The Pirate Bay has nearly doubled from 14 million in early September, to 25 million now. Other BitTorrent sites such as Mininova, Torrentz and BTjunkie report an increase in downloads, searches and web traffic, ranging from 25 to 50 percent over the same time frame.

This increase, even if it is directly related to the economic downturn, is not necessarily linked with a drop in box office grosses or DVD sales. ‘The Dark Knight’, which is the most downloaded movie on BitTorrent in 2008 sold millions of DVDs, and grossed a record breaking billion dollars in cinemas worldwide. That does not really sound like a ‘bad year’ to us.

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