Researchers at the APAS Laboratory has warned against the use of piracy download stats as a way to calculate piracy losses, because the method downloaders use to choose what to download has no relation to how cinema patrons choose at the box office.
The study, titled "Testing the lost sale concept in the context of unauthorized BitTorrent downloads of CAM copies of theatrical releases" and published this week, looked at CAM downloads (downloads of films that have been recorded at cinemas, typically of films that are still showing theatrically) and what correlation the downloads stats had in relation to the box office receipts for the movie. The study found that there was very little, if any, correlation between how many times a movie was downloaded illegally and whether that movie was a success or failure at the box office. Instead, factors such as pre-release buzz and the quality of the movie largely determined the box office, and not the popularity of pirated copies.
When looking at 32 popular movies available on BitTorrent site Demonoid, the researchers found that people typically chose the most visible titles available for download, as opposed to the traditional criteria used by movie-goers, such as whether the film has received favorable reviews or its IMDb rating.
Instead, it appears downloaders use CAM downloads as a way a discovery tool for movies, rather than as a way to avoid paying for a particular chosen film.
"The research findings are the first to support with concrete behavioral evidence what BitTorrent file-sharers have been saying all along: that they don't always download movies - in this case CAM versions of theatrical releases - they would have paid to view if they were not available on sites like Demonoid," researcher Marc Milot told TorrentFreak.
With file sharers apparently choosing downloads differently than how movie-goers choose to pay for films, Milot expplains that this key differences is why equating download stats to lost ticket sales can be misleading.
"BitTorrent site users appear to be exploring and downloading the most visible movies, without caring how good or bad they are. It is in this way that BitTorrent sites and the box office are completely different systems in which people behave uniquely and with different motivations," Milot explains. "These findings should caution against the use of download statistics alone in calculations of losses - in this case lost ticket sales - to avoid overestimation."