Those who steal movies are also happy to pay

The movie pirate paradox – they help and harm the industry

People who illegally download billions of pounds worth of movies also love going to the cinema and don’t mind paying to watch movies.

In the first study to examine the differences between movie and music pirates, the key finding was those who steal movies seem to be an entirely different breed from those who steal music.

In addition to movie pirates being less likely to stop paying to see movies alongside stealing them, prolific movie pirates also tend to be wealthier, less worried  about being caught and more likely to cut down their  piracy if they think they are harming  the industry.

The research, by Dr Joe Cox and Professor Alan Collins, economists at the University of Portsmouth, also found that compared to those who steal music, movie pirates are more likely to live in large cities and be ‘early adopters’ of new technology.

Findings have implications for policy: Dr Joe Cox

The research is published in the Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics.

The researchers analysed results from a survey of more than 6,000 people aged seven to 84 to examine the attitudes of those who illegally download movies and music from the internet.

On average, each person had illegally downloaded about 2,900 music files and 90 movie files. Experts claim the cost of piracy in the US alone is $US12.5bn to the music industry and $US20.5bn to the movie industry.

Dr Cox said: “It is interesting to see that people who illegally download large quantities of movie files continue to pay for legal movie consumption to a far greater extent than music downloaders.

Co-author Professor Alan Collins

“However, it came as no surprise to find that the most prolific pirates of either movies or music tend to be younger men. They have the skills, the motivation and the equipment to between them to steal large volumes of music tracks and movies every month.”

Pirates are generally motivated first and foremost by saving money, and second, by seeing themselves as helping artists bypass middlemen and reach wider audiences, the study found. But it also found significant differences in the behaviour and attitudes of music and movie pirates. Those who illegally download large volumes of movie files are likely to be significantly:

  • less likely  to cut back their spending on legal movies compared to those who steal music;
  • better off financially than music pirates;
  • more likely to be male;
  • less likely to think they’ll be caught compared to those who steal music;
  • more likely to limit their piracy if they think stealing is harms the film industry.

Dr Cox said: “These findings are important from a policy perspective, because they suggest campaigns that emphasise the harmful effects on the movie industry of piracy are much more likely to be effective than similar campaigns focusing on the music industry.

“One of the reasons movie pirates are a different breed is downloading and file-sharing films is much more technologically demanding. It requires faster internet speeds, greater digital storage capabilities and access to a wider range of devices for playback than pirating music, which has now become relatively simple, fast and cheap.”

The researchers, from Portsmouth Business School, analysed a Finnish survey dataset of 6,100 people, which reinforces that piracy is not limited to the US and UK markets and that the behaviours and attitudes are similar worldwide.

Among the reasons people gave for downloading files illegally were that it saved money, allowed access to material not on general release or before it was released, and has benefits such as helping artists bypass record companies or movie studios.

Reasons given for  not downloading or for limiting piracy included fear of downloading viruses or malware, content not matching the description, being difficult to find, and being of poor quality.

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  1. Pirates do not steal.
    Pirates COPY.
    Pirates do not sell or profit from copyrighted information.
    Pirates believe in the freedom of information.

    It just so happens that information is copyrighted.

    Please tell those “experts” that talk of bn of $ of theft, to read a little about laws and stop treating citizens as companies.

    Citizens do not profit.
    Citizens do not compete.

    The fathers of the US bill of right saw the purpose of the state as guaranteeing the pursuit of happiness: “all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Please treat citizens as citizens, and companies as companies, and stop mixing civil and corporate law.

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