Interstellar (USA, 2014) was the most pirated film of 2015, with 46 million illegal downloads. In 2011, Avatar (USA, 2009) was topping illegal downloads with 21 million downloads; so how in four years has the downloading of films online more than doubled?
The Motion Picture Association of America defines piracy as ‘the unauthorised copying, distribution, performance or other use of copyright materials’. Organisations such as the MPAA have been campaigning since 1984 to stop piracy users and abolish it all together; due to the introduction of VCR, causing the bootlegging of VHS and then DVDs, and now with online torrenting and downloading of films.
Piracy is not a problem associated with individuals, but has become an international crime perpetuated and protected by nations who refuse to pursue illegal action by commercial organizations within their boundaries. The major American studios lose $6.1 billion globally each year as a result of piracy, and audio-visual industries lose $18.2 billion annually. Piracy stops producers and directors seeing a return on their investment, which they have devoted years of work into. It also reduces the quality and quantity of future material as there is a loss of money that could have been put back into the industry for investment. In addition, the piracy means that their ingenuity and art have been stolen due to infringement of copyright law.
People pirate due to many factors, the main being the ease of access in being able to stream or download a film from the comfort of their own home. In the 1980s and 90s, film piracy consisted of bootlegged VHS and DVDs being purchased by street vendors in unregulated commercial spaces. Eighty per cent of global film piracy took place outside the US, consisting mainly in China, Russia and Thailand. As the development of the Internet and Personal Computers came about in the late 1980s the Internet was in nearly every home. Thirty-five per cent of adults accessed the Internet everyday in 2006, compared to seventy-eight per cent of adults accessing the Internet daily in 2015, with seventy-four per cent of them accessing it “on the go”. Fifty-eight per cent of people that pirate are aged 16-24, with the remaining being on average no older than 49 years old. The cost of Internet and computers has decreased dramatically since first released commercially, therefore making it a commonly accessible and affordable technology. In the modern day twenty-two per cent of global Internet bandwidth is used for online piracy.
Secondly pirating a film can also act as a free sample that can lead to the future purchasing and consumption of a film, causing pirating (due to accessibility) leading to an increased fan base.
The primary motive for film piracy is financial. In general, individuals who pirate films do not want pay to see movies. They may argue that the current price of £8.40 off-peak and £9.48 during peak time is too much that they don’t want to risk paying to see a film that they may not enjoy and that many international films may not be available in cinemas and consequently they must resort to watching a pirated copy online. In the past five years, BFI statistics state that cinema ticket prices have increased by 26% in the UK. This rise in ticket prices can be explained by the decline in DVD sales. In 2010, the value of DVD ownership was £2500 million, decreasing to £1700 million in 2015. This decrease has a strong correlation to an increase in the value of digital viewing; in 2010 the value was just over £300 million rising to £1500 million in 2015. T-VoD (TV/over the web subscription platforms) are increasing 19% year on year and s-VoD (subscription based platforms) are increasing by 45% year on year. The reason for the decrease in DVD ownership from the increase of Video on Demand is that now there is the availability of hundreds of varying films that are immediately accessible on a digital medium for a lower monthly cost of an average DVD. This rise in Video on Demand has seen no dramatic drop in cinema admissions, fluctuated between 156 and 173 million admission per year in the last ten years, but admission prices have increased in order to regain the money lost in declining DVD sales. 
The seventy per cent of people that partake in film piracy globally see nothing wrong with pirating, mainly due to the fact it is not a physical act of stealing. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) published a survey in April 2016 that found that a quarter of adolescents between 15 and 24 in the European Union alone admit to intentionally using illegal sources to access online content in the past 12 months, with one in four believing that they were doing nothing wrong. Suits have been filed globally by major studios to shut down online streaming sites such as SolarMovie however once shut down; websites reappear under a different domain. To cut back on film piracy the MPAA issued every cinema with a document, Best Practices to Prevent Film, which include how to avoid and treat film piracy. It refers to a website set up by the MPAA and NATO Fight Film Theft, which gives information on how to detect and report film piracy in the country involved. One way stated in the paper to stop piracy is to employ cinema staff to wear night vision goggles during screenings to catch anyone recording the film. The amount of “CAM” releases on online torrent sites have been reduced as a result. Take Action! Reward’ was put in place ten years ago by the MPA, where cinema staff are awarded $500 for catching a film pirate, this motivates staff to be more vigilant on entry and during screenings for film pirates.
Overall film piracy has increased through the impact of digital technology due to the growth of accessibility of the Internet, which has caused the number of illegal downloads of films to double in only 4 years. Piracy causes billions of dollars to be lost from the film industry, which leads to the quality of new films to be lessened due to lower budgets. The increase in the number of daily Internet users highlights how the Internet has become more easily accessible and available therefore impacting the rise in film piracy through streaming and downloading over the Internet as accessing pirate websites has become readily available and easy to do, and is unlikely to decrease even with the implications put in place by laws and organisations.
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Avatar. DVD. Directed by James Cameron. 2009; Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2010.
Interstellar. DVD. Directed by Christopher Nolan. 2014; Hollywood, CA: Warner Home Video, 2015.
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Child, Ben “Interstellar most pirated movie of 2015 with 46m illegal downloads,” The Guardian, December 29, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/29/interstellar-most-pirated-movie-2015-46m-illegal-downloads
Cinema UK “UK Cinema Admissions” http://www.cinemauk.org.uk/the-industry/facts-and-figures/uk-cinema-admissions-and-box-office/annual-admissions/
Lobato, Ramon. “Six Faces of Piracy” in Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution, Ramon Lobato. London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012.
MPAA “Best Practices to Prevent Movie Theft,” MPAA, last accessed 28th April, 2016 https://www.scribd.com/doc/184155847/Movie-Theft-Best-Practices-MPAA-pdf
MPAA. “Piracy – Didn’t They See It Coming” last modified April 7 2016, http://www.mpaa.org/piracy-didnt-they-see-it-coming/#.VyIiy2Mff6Y
MPA and LEK. “The Cost of Movie Piracy”, MPA and LEK, last accessed April 30, 2016 http://austg.com/include/downloads/PirateProfile.pdf
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Stephen Follows “Average Cost of a Cinema Ticket” last modified October 12 2015 https://stephenfollows.com/average-cost-of-a-cinema-ticket/
 Ben Child, “Interstellar most pirated movie of 2015 with 46m illegal downloads,” The Guardian, December 29, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/29/interstellar-most-pirated-movie-2015-46m-illegal-downloads
 Ramon Lobato, “Six Faces of Piracy” in Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution, Ramon Lobato (London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012).
 Ramon Lobato, “Six Faces of Piracy” in Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution, Ramon Lobato (London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012)
 “Internet Access – Households and Individuals: 2015” National Statistics, last modified August 6, 2016http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/householdcharacteristics/homeinternetandsocialmediausage/bulletins/internetaccesshouseholdsandindividuals/2015-08-06
 “The Cost of Movie Piracy”, MPA and LEK, last accessed April 30, 2016 http://austg.com/include/downloads/PirateProfile.pdf
 “Average Cost of a Cinema Ticket” last modified October 12 2015 https://stephenfollows.com/average-cost-of-a-cinema-ticket/
 “Exhibition – BFI Research and Statistics” last modified November 2015 http://www.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org.uk/files/downloads/bfi-exhibtion-2015-11.pdf
 “Piracy – Didn’t They See It Coming” last modified April 7 2016, http://www.mpaa.org/piracy-didnt-they-see-it-coming/#.VyIiy2Mff6Y
 “Best Practices to Prevent Movie Theft,” MPAA, last accessed 28th April, 2016 https://www.scribd.com/doc/184155847/Movie-Theft-Best-Practices-MPAA-pdf