Hollywood’s Release Delays Breed Pirates

Opinion

This week the MPA's Stan McCoy said it's a myth that legal content is not available, hinting at an excuse often used by movie pirates. But is that really the case? A quick survey shows that Hollywood still has a long way to go before availability becomes a non-issue. Currently, only one of the ten most-pirated movies can be bought or rented online.

babypirateHollywood has a message to all those pirates who keep making excuses to download and stream films illegally.

“You have no excuse.”

The major movie studios have done enough to make their content legally available, launching thousands of convenient movie services worldwide, they claim.

“We need to bust the myth that legal content is unavailable. Creative industries are tirelessly experimenting with new business models that deliver films, books, music, TV programs, newspapers, games and other creative works to consumers,” Stan McCoy noted on the MPAA blog this week.

“In Europe, there are over 3,000 on-demand audio-visual services available to European citizens,” he adds.

So is the MPA right? Is “availability” an imaginary problem that pirates use as an excuse not to pay?

We decided to investigate the issue by looking at the online availability of the ten most downloaded films of last week. Since the MPAA’s blog post talked about Europe and the UK we decided to use Findanyfilm.com which focuses on UK content. The results of our small survey speak for themselves.

Of the ten most pirated movies only Gone Girl is available to buy or rent online. A pretty weak result, especially since it’s still missing from the most popular video subscription service Netflix.

Ranking Movie Available Online? Buy / Rent
torrentfreak.com
1 Interstellar NO
2 American Sniper NO
3 Taken 3 NO
4 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies NO
5 John Wick NO
6 Into The Woods NO
7 Fury NO
8 Gone Girl Rent/Buy
9 American Heist NO
10 The Judge NO

Yes, the results above are heavily skewed because they only include movies that were released recently. Looking up films from 2011 will result in a much more favorable outcome in terms of availability.

But isn’t that the problem exactly? Most film fans are not interested in last year’s blockbusters, they want to able to see the new stuff in their home too. And since the movie industry prefers to keep its windowing business model intact, piracy is often the only option to watch recent movies online.

So when the MPA’s Stan McCoy says that lacking availability is a myth, he’s ignoring the elephant in the room.

For as long as the film industry keeps its windowing business model intact, releasing films online months after their theatrical release, people will search for other ways to access content, keeping their piracy habit alive.

Admittedly, changing a business that has relied on complex licensing schemes and windowing strategies for decades isn’t easy. But completely ignoring that these issues play a role is a bit shortsighted.

There’s no doubt that the movie studios are making progress. It’s also true that many people choose to pirate content that is legally available, simply because it’s free. There is no good excuse for these freeriders, but it’s also a myth that Hollywood has done all it can to eradicate piracy.

Even its own research proves them wrong.

Earlier this year a KPMG report, commissioned by NBC Universal, showed that only 16% of the most popular and critically acclaimed films are available via Netflix and other on-demand subscription services. The missing 84% includes recent titles but also older ones that are held back due to rights issues.

Clearly, availability is still an issue.

So if Hollywood accuses Google of breeding pirates, then it’s safe to say the same about Hollywood.

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