MPAA Attacks Digital Piracy

The Motion Picture Association of America has issued a strident warning that "a growing global epidemic" of Internet movie piracy is harming the motion picture industry. Citing a survey of 3600 Internet users in 8 countries conducted by online research company OTX, the MPAA reported that one in four Internet users (24%) has downloaded a movie and that 17% of those who had done soreported lowered attendance of theatrical films or purchases of licensed DVDs or videotapes.

The MPAA, which did not fund the survey, claims that OTX's findings demonstrate a direct relationship between the penetration of broadband Internet access and movie piracy. In Korea, where broadband is available in 98% of households, 58% of respondents were reported to have downloaded a movie online.

The problem is growing, claims the MPAA. Of those who have downloaded films, 58% say they will do so again and 17% of those who have not yet done so said they expect to start doing so within the year.

As proof of downloading's impact on the industry, the MPAA cited a 4% drop-off in ticket sales.

Some analysts disagree with the trade association's interpretation of the data. Mike Goodman, a senior analyst at the communications research organization Yankee Group, while not disputing the accuracy of OTX's numbers, found the dire predictions less than plausible. "If 17% are going to the movies less," he told TechNews World, "what about the other 83%?"

Goodman also observed that Yankee's own research reported a similar number (16%) of downloaders, but had indicated that 43% of downloaders attended movies as frequently as they had prior to downloading and 41% reported increased movie attendance.

Movie fans, Goodman pointed out, watch movies in a variety of ways—and often watch films multiple times, perhaps going to the theatrical release, renting a recorded copy, and purchasing a licensed recording.

His explanation for the MPAA's 4% drop-off statistic? "You have an increase in dogs," he said, alluding to the tepid reception of most of this season's "blockbuster" offerings. "There's your 4%."

Yankee's findings show that only 3% of US broadband–connected homes reported having downloaded movies—a figure which includes legitimate downloads. Most people, he observed, aren't particularly fond of watching movies on their computers. That lack of interest might change with the increased availability of home media centers.

MPAA spokesperson Phuong Yokitis said that comparing OTX's and Yankee's findings was like comparing "apples to oranges."