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US Pirate Party Study: MPAA Piracy Claims ‘Don’t Hold Water’

“Piracy at the Pictures: Do the Figures Add Up?” examines film industry figures and the reality of their claims.

Today the Pirate Party of the United States released the initial findings from it’s first study, entitled “Piracy at the Pictures: Do the Figures Add Up?,” that examines film industry figures and the reality of their claims.

“We at the Pirate party believe strongly in law, justice and truth,” said states party Administrator, and study author, Andrew Norton. “When you have people trying to change the law, or pervert justice using something that is not the truth, we feel, as does every other reasonable and sane person, that the truth should be highlighted. Further, to prove the truth behind our claims, we will be publishing not only the methodology behind the study, but the raw study data as well.”

The aim behind the study was simple, to investigate claims that movie attendances have suffered as a result of CAM piracy. With past MPAA claims that some 90% of pirate DVDs originate from versions shot in Canada and New York they wondered if the figures actually matched these claims.

“To keep things simple and fair, “says Mr. Norton, “we took the top ten films for the past eleven years. These films are the ones most likely to be recorded at the cinema, and distributed online, or on the street. The findings make for interesting reading we think.”

They do indeed, for among some of Mr. Norton’s initial findings is that he found "little, or no link between P2P networks, and cinema box office sales," notably in the case of the year’s top films, which "common sense would also suggest to be the ones most likely to be distributed and ‘pirated’."

To prove his point he created a graph, as shown below, that illustrates the annual combined box office gross revenues for the top 5, and top 10 films for each of the last 12 years.

Despite all the MPAA’s doom and gloom about file-sharing creating starving actors, actresses, stagehands, etc., the movie industry has enjoyed record ticket sales. In fact, last year they grossed more than any year studied except 2004, a year when file-sharing was already common. With the continued rise in popularity of file-sharing networks, the increasing power of computers, the decreasing complexity of such programs, the greater public knowledge of file-sharing, and the increasing connectivity of computers with televisions, as well as the increased availability of hardware able to play video files from the internet, it’s contrary to film industry claims to discover that each year has been better than the last for the MPAA over the last several years.

Mr. Norton also casts doubt on the whole Star Wars III workprint release affair by noting that despite its leak it still was the top grossing movie of the year. Adding to the doubts on the harm of file-sharing is that it enjoyed more box office success than Star Wars II which had no workprint leak.

It’s no surprise that the MPAA’s figures don’t add up. I’m sure they hate the fact that some people are able to view their copyrighted material without coughing up a fee of their liking. By inflating and misrepresenting their losses it makes it easier to get favorable legislation passed that makes it more difficult for people to do so.

Remember how the MPAA reported that college students were responsible for 44% of domestic piracy losses only to later reveal that it was in fact 15%? WIth "human error" to blame for a 300% discrepancy in that case is it really that far fetched to suggest that a similar discrepancy is possible with the other figures they routinely cite?