As I wrote the headline for this article, I was shaking my head. It seems so obvious that the answer to video piracy is access to legal streaming. But since I’m just a user and obviously don’t know anything, maybe a site with data to back up the assertion will help.
Piracydata.org is monitoring the top 10 most pirated movies for any given week and correlating those titles against legal digital purchase, rental or streaming. Interestingly, there were no streaming options for any of the movies. 6 out of the 10 were available for digital purchase while only three of them were available for digital rental.
I didn’t find the data particularly surprising. It matches many anecdotal stories of why people pirate. Unlike some studies of piracy, this one looks at actual downloads instead of just titles available. This gives me some confidence that they are getting a good look at actual infringing behavior rather than just saying, “here’s the titles with the most torrent links” (a common problem in piracy studies.)
Naturally, the MPAA took issue with the study. According to a Variety article about the study:
“More than half of the films they cite are in fact available to stream or download, including films they claim are not,” said an MPAA spokeswoman. “And if a film is not available for stream or purchase at a given moment, it still does not justify stealing it from the creators and makers who worked hard to make it.”
The creators of the study had a response on their blog post:
This is actually not a problem with our data, but with how it’s interpreted. Because the TorrentFreak data is backward-looking, reporting the most pirated movies in the previous week, we only want to report the online availability of movies as it appeared on Monday. That is, we are intentionally taking a snapshot of Monday availability. If movies become available for rental on Tuesday, we will continue to report throughout the remainder of the week that they were not available to rent on Monday, because that is most likely to reflect the state of the world during the preceding week when the piracy was happening.
While you might be able to quibble over the availability of a particular movie, I think the main point of their study is valid. Make more legal streaming options available, and you’ll reduce piracy. I completely agree that piracy is not justified, but the reality is people will continue to pirate until the studios remove much of the incentive to do so.