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New site tracks piracy vs availability

Shock and horror, it turns out that the most pirated movies might be suffering from problems with availability, making the illegally downloaded version not only cheaper, but quicker, easier to access and simpler to find, according to data from a newly launched website: PiracyData.org.

The site takes the list of the top torrented movies from the past week and lists their streaming, digital rental and digital purchasing opportunities. As you might expect, none of the most popular ones at the moment have any online streaming options, despite that becoming one of the most popular ways to consume films and TV shows. Digital rental was also almost non existent, with only three of the top ten featuring that.

Digitally purchasing was a little more common, but not as prolific as you might have expected for a world that is almost entirely digital at this point. Admittedly some of these movies are still finishing up their runs at the box office, but obviously there's people that want to watch this movie that aren't willing to go to the cinema to do so – which means it's up to he movie studios to adjust if they want that “lost” revenue.

Some of you are actually downloading The Internship? 

Let's look at the top film on the list however, the recently released Pacific Rim. It's not available for streaming (it looks like it might be available on Sky, but myself and I'm sure a lot of other people, aren't willing to pay for channels when we only want to watch one particular movie) on services like Netflix or Lovefilm, you can't digitally rent it for a few quid, you can only purchase it digitally according to the site.

It turns out though that it is available for digital rental and purchase via Cineplex, though the pricing is a little extreme. Rental isn't too bad, with around £4 for a single use copy, but if you want to buy a digital version that you can then watch through the Cineplex media manager, you'll need to shell out almost £16 for the HD version, which of course doesn't come with a nice fancy box, or artwork or any of the special features that a similarly priced Blu-Ray would. While this availability was confirmed by the MPAA, the creators of the site say this sort of initiative was only launched after their data poked a hole in the release strategy.

Next up on the list is White House Down, which was released back in June. It isn't available in digital form anywhere, but then again it's not available in physical form either, until January next year. January, at that point seven months since the original theatre release.

Do you want to watch it now? Then you'll have to pirate. As black and white as it sounds, that's the only option to those that want to watch the movie right now. That or wait, which in today's society isn't something most people are accustomed to with their media.

It's understandable why movie studios don't want people to pirate, as whether they buy it afterwards or not, that particular viewing is taking place for free. It's an understandable sentiment, but when the only option people have to watch your movie for (even if we just take it from today until release) a quarter of a year, what do you expect to happen? It's a toss up. You either improve availability, or increase the risk of piracy.

What will be interesting over the next few months, is if we see piracy decline for certain mainstream titles if studios take steps to increase digital availability and reduce the release window.

Matter of fact, just do it like Louis CK does. Digital download, watch it where and how you want, $5. Awesome.

KitGuru Says: The movie industry should really look at the games industry for inspiration on how to evolve into a truly digital medium. Games are released simultaneously (most of the time) around the world, on platforms like Steam where people can immediately play the game. They can even pre-load it so that there's no download time. Why is this not something that movie studios do? Just make this availability happen as soon as the film is out of the cinema. Oh I know that will cut into box office takings, but so? That's dying anyway and the near £10 tickets per movie aren't helping.

[Thanks Ars]

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