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Questioning Fandom: Is Piracy Negligible?

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The results of a new study has arrived, courtesy of Deadline, and it’s one that in some ways really won’t surprise a lot of people that have opined on the subject over the years. Studies are, of course, a dime a dozen, but there are always kernels in there that can be explored and deal with. The latest one looks at the theatrical movie window and the effect on piracy there with the way there are so many staggered releases internationally, though they’re getting fewer when it comes to the big ticket films and there have been some that have opened overseas before they opened in the United States. What the study found is that piracy is essentially negligible within the U.S. when it comes to films, making no real impact, but it hits them hard overseas the longer the window is.

The study also concludes that since the advent of piracy software BitTorrent in 2003, the longer the lag time between a film’s release abroad compared to its U.S. opening, the greater the depression in box office receipts. Generally, the study found international returns were 7% lower in the sample set than they would have been had piracy not existed. Hollywood films normally bow in the U.S. before heading abroad, with opening dates varying by country; countries like Denmark, Finland, Italy, Poland, and Turkey generally have longer lag times than the UK, Switzerland and Australia.

The types of films being pirated are of course all of them, but the more specific genres of science fiction and action films being the big ones makes sense as the fans of those tend to be a bit more technically savvy and they’ll go after them with greater ease. Women who want to see The Help generally aren’t going to be the first in line to download a copy of it. If a copy of The Avengers hits even a day before it’s in theaters? Widespread acquisition ahoy. What the study did find though in general with U.S. audiences is that they’re still more likely to head to the theater to see the film and that there’s also the growing number that will just wait for the home video release for a lot of them due to the shorter windows and the varied points of access for it.

But overseas, the numbers are very different. “Researchers found that in 2003-2004 a movie released overseas eight weeks after its U.S. premiere had lower returns by about 22% in a given country. That figure shot up to nearly 40% in 2005-2006 as each additional week of lag time decreased returns for science fiction and action titles by an extra 1.3% compared with other genres.”

There’s a lot of variance to what people will do when it comes to acquiring films that they want to see. While I never partook of it myself in my younger days since it wasn’t as readily or easily done, I’m at a stage in my life where it just doesn’t make sense. Beyond the basic fact of there’s just so much entertainment out there to be watched, I don’t mind waiting a few months for a flick to go from theaters to home video for rental or purchase. The same with anime. There’s just so much simulcast these days, and anecdotal evidence does show a drop in the number of fansub groups and shows out there, that it does continue to point to the idea of shorter windows makes sense for everything. It’s part of that push, digitally as well, to get things into peoples hands quicker. The downside is that the marketing push is weakened of course and it becomes more word of mouth.

So what do you think? If you’re in the U.S., is piracy less of an issue than it used to be depending on the particular media and market? If you’re overseas, do you find that it’s easier to get pirated copies online of things that take months, if ever, to come out where you are?

Drop in to our forum for the subject and let us know. No registration is required for that particular section, though you can certainly register and you can connect via Facebook as well to post.

Questioning Fandom appears every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with different topics where we want to know where the fans stand on various topics. Check the forum for past topics and join in the conversation. You can also suggest topics in there as well!