MPAA: Movie downloading is new piracy plague

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) warned against a "growing global epidemic" of movie piracy over the Internet last week, citing a survey of Internet users in which nearly one in four respondents had illegally downloaded a movie online.

The study, conducted by online research company OTX, queried 3,600 Net users in eight countries, and was cited by the MPAA as the harbinger of the tough times the industry faces ahead in grappling with online piracy.

Although the MPAA participated in delivering the survey results it did not fund the study, an OTX representative said Friday, adding that the company undertook the survey independently.

According to the survey, 24 percent of respondents reported that they had downloaded a movie online, and 69 percent said that they did not believe that online music piracy was a major concern.

The study was performed in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S., and shows a direct correlation between broadband penetration and the incidence of piracy, the researcher said. In Korea, for instance, where broadband penetration is estimated to stand at 98 percent, 58 percent of respondents said that they had downloaded a movie online.

The survey also indicated that online movie piracy was growing, with 17 percent of respondents who have not yet downloaded movies online saying that they expect to start within the next year. Furthermore, 58 percent of current downloaders expect to continue the practice, the MPAA said. Those who described themselves as downloaders had already pirated an average of 11 films each.

The increasing ease of downloading movies, through broadband and compression technologies, along with high movie ticket prices, and wide film availability online were cited as factors driving consumers to download.

A film's release status also appeared to be of little concern to downloaders, with 21 percent saying that downloading films before they were released in theaters was acceptable.

The MPAA has ramped up its campaign against online piracy in recent weeks, fearing that trends such as peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file sharing would take a significant bite out its business. The group estimated that its industry loses US$3 billion in annual revenue due to global piracy.

In June the group announced a new phase in its online piracy fight, saying it planned to put antipiracy ads in newspapers and magazines, and do outreach with student groups, fearing that as online piracy grows, moviegoers will decline.

Research done by CacheLogic appears to support the survey's claims that Internet users are downloading more than music. The company, which monitors and manages network traffic for Internet service providers, said that the vast majority of P-to-P traffic volume comes from files over 100M bytes in size.

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