Intellectual Property

Most Pirated Films of 2015 Show That Stealing is Great for Hollywood

From Interstellar to Inside Out, stolen movies help increase and engage audiences.


Via Variety, here's a list from "piracy tracking firm Excipio" of the most illegally downloaded films in 2015, many of which were actually released in 2014. The big numbers are the download counts from various torrent sites.

#1) 46,762,310 Interstellar (2014)
#2) 44,794,877 Furious 7 (2015)
#3) 41,594,159 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
#4) 36,881,763 Jurassic World (2015)
#5) 36,443,244 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
#6) 33,953,737 American Sniper (2014)
#7) 32,126,827 Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
#8) 31,574,872 The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armys (2014)
#9) 31,001,480 Terminator: Genisys (2015)
#10) 30,922,987 The Secret Service (2014)

Variety's Andrew Wallenstein throws in four more from 2015 to give totals for films released only last year:

#11) 26,792,863 Focus (2015)
#12) 25,883,469 San Andreas (2015)
#13) 23,495,140 The Minions (2015)
#14) 22,734,070 Inside Out (2015)

The list runs under the headline, "Top 10 Pirated Movies of 2015 See Alarming Increase In Downloads," and Wallenstein writes,

Excipio didn't change how it monitored piracy this year, and the tracking period is roughly the same. While the surging numbers clearly indicates piracy continues unabated worldwide, the growth of overseas markets like Brazil are key to fueling totals as well.

More here.

Movie piracy, like music piracy and to a lesser degree book piracy, is here to stay for the simple reason that it is technologically easy to do and virtually impossible to stop. More than two decades after the first mass panics about internet-enabled entertainment piracy, it should be clear to legacy companies that such a state of affairs is hardly a death sentence.

Which isn't to say that media companies don't need to change not just the products they make but how they distribute and market them. This shift is already well underway, of course, as anyone with a Pandora app, Netflix streaming account, Tivo, or video-on-demand cable package can tell you. Make it easy to find and consume whatever culture your audience wants whenever they want it and you'll do just fine. If you're a music performer, tour more often. If you're an old-time movie star, you might think about doing original streaming programming. As Kim Dotcom is fond of noting, release movies with global audiences at the same time everywhere on the planet and you'll do just fine at the box office. After all, people like to see big-screen spectacles on big screens, right?

The makers of the movies on this Top Ten list should take it as a sign of gratitude, not theft, when their flicks make such a list. Illegally downloaded movies, like illegally downloaded music, rarely if ever actually take money from the mouths of a big-shot producer or actor. Assume a world in which piracy tech doesn't exist. The most-likely reality is that given the choice between paying $20 or even $10 for a DVD version that comes out well after a movie's theatrical release or simply not watching a film, virtually all of today's pirates would choose the latter. As it is, pirates don't just steal stuff for free. They tend to be heavy consumers of legit product too. They help keep particular movies, stars, studios, directors, you name it, in public circulation long after the industry p.r. machine has shut down. They are unpaid advance men (and women) for Furious 23 and Avengers: Male Menopause.

Hollywood: Your problems will only really begin when the number of illegal downloads starts dropping every year.

Related: "How Should Libertarians Think About Intellectual Property?"

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  1. Anyone who pirates those movies should be sentenced to watch them.

  2. Arrrr….ever’one one of those talkies would have been better wit’ a pirate in it

  3. Not what you think:
    “University releases list of banned words”
    “Still, everyone can be a stakeholder and join the conversation.”…..tgfeatures

    I’ll add “sustainable”, and I’ll bet you have some candidates, too.

    1. “and “vape,” describing the act of “smoking” e-cigarettes.”

      Well what verb are you supposed to use for the act of inhaling the vapor from an e-cig? The sentence uses “smoking” in quotes, which implies that that’s not a very accurate word choice.

  4. Which isn’t to say that media companies don’t need to change not just the products they make but how they distribute and market them.

    Triple negative?

  5. OT = Epic Irony of 2016 so far

    Saudis execute Dissident Shiite Imam in Year-End Orgy of Beheadings = Iranians Freak the Fuck Out Because They Like Totally Never Execute People For Political Speech I Mean Come On

    “”The execution of a personality such as Sheikh Nimr who had no means other than speech to pursue his political and religious objectives only shows the depth of imprudence and irresponsibility,” Press TV cited [Iran’s] Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi as saying.”

    Salman Rushdie was apparently not sought for comment

  6. Nick doesn’t mention it (*the Reason staff has been blind drunk since before Christmas and have been phoning the posts in to some harried unpaid Hindu intern) but the downloading thing has a specific benefit of allowing a mass audience to *sample* a far wider range of films than they’d normally choose to.

    The impact this has on the wider market can be dramatic. Instead of going out to see 5 movies a year, and having to debate about what to choose among the pile of drek released annually, people are screening dozens of films in the privacy of their homes, and turning into a developing fanbase for specific directors, actors, franchises, that they otherwise might have skipped past for mere lack of enthusiasm to drop $20 at a crowded theatre, only to be disappointed.

    What % of this translates into ‘new, paying consumers’? Even if its only a small percentage…. when the basis in the many-millions of people, it doesn’t take a lot to flip that into millions of $ in demand in post-release streaming, DVD sales, or future content.

    Hollywood will never ’embrace’ piracy because they love having The Man on their side to occasionally lay their vengence upon thee. But I think they figured out a while ago that their business model isn’t “threatened” so much as simply changing slightly.

    1. So I have the internet to blame for JJ Abrams and all the superhero movies *shakes fist*

      1. I think that’s pretty much correct

        I think a lot of US movies are going the way of “Hong Kong style cinema”… or there’s a cross-pollination happening w/ Hong-Kong/Bollywood/Hollywood styles that would have inevitably happened anyway, but is happening faster because the downloads make it so clear what kind of movies have the largest potential global market

    2. Thanks for raising this point, which I think makes a lot of sense.

  7. ‘Arr, I downloaded me a film about the truth of 9-11, and I haven’t seen the world in the same way since mateys. Save your gold for eyepatches and hook hands, not to give to some Joos in Hollywood.

  8. Wow I think this is completely wrong. I don’t get why the people who make movies and music aren’t more outraged when their stuff is stolen. But I think it’s up to them to push for protections. This is like saying “It’s ok to steal cadillacs because then when they drive it, it makes the care more appealing to a younger hipper demographic.”

    1. I don’t get why the people who make movies and music aren’t more outraged when their stuff is stolen.

      Because they’re making money hand over fist and nobody has actually proven that piracy of big-name movies, music, etc. actually translates into diminished returns? Also, Congress can only hand them so many favors every year; I’m sure when Steamboat Willie is close to entering the public domain again, they’ll all come crying to Washington and get yet another copyright extension.

      The real story is in the marginal artists and producers who can’t (yet) play within the system, and may actually see lost revenue. But you are kind of stuck in a chicken and egg problem there, too; without the exposure, who would be paying them? A lot of “hot new acts” have gotten their start on places like YouTube, where they weren’t making any money (or much, if ad-supported) to begin with.

      Not that any of it is justified, but I’d wager more money and time has been lost worrying about and trying to fight this than has been lost due to it.

      1. I like your spirited reply and I agree with you that “The real story is in the marginal artists and producers”. They are really getting hurt by this, because they put their heart and soul into an album or movie and then people just steal it. The quality of music has suffered greatly because of this dynamic, and I fear that movies will go in the same direction (quality hasn’t suffered as of late, in my opinion). Of course, that’s not a justification, nor do I think 70 years protection is necessary to solve this problem.

        1. “…The quality of music has suffered greatly because of this dynamic…”

          I’m sure you can prove that statement.

        2. “”The real story is in the marginal artists and producers”. They are really getting hurt by this’

          By mass-market artists stuff getting pirated? Really?

        3. Movies have gone in that direction. I wouldn’t waste my time watching another Star wars or Terminator clone. Same goes for all the comic book movies.

          1. The superhero/comic book trend can’t die fast enough for me.

        4. I don’t see how (your perception of diminishing) quality and piracy are connected in the big-dollar arena. The music on the radio and the movies in the theaters are making as much money as ever. The direction is being chosen by the allocation of dollars from consumers. To say that piracy has weeded out “the good stuff” is both to ignore the small-to-medium markets (thus perpetuating the problem you claim exists) and to presume yourself the arbiter of cultural quality.

          The problem is that there’s not much remedy for the small-timers and yet meanwhile the statutory terms and penalties written for the big players are ridiculously out of proportion with the stated aim of “promot[ing] the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts”.

  9. Nick, are you really so off kilter as to reverse the causality here, inferring that products are popular because they’re stolen, rather than stolen because they’re popular?

  10. So if I shoplift name brand clothes, I am helping the designer because I will be wearing their name out and encourage others to buy them? Sounds like the same logic. And whether or not Steamboat Willy is yet in the public domain isn’t the same as 40 million hits watching a movie that came out 1-2 years ago. If Disney (or any other studios) don’t want to prosecute pirates, that’s their choice. But that doesn’t make it right to do so. So much for the NAP.

    1. “Sounds like the same logic”

      No, because digital media is infinitely replicated sans cost, and changes in value depending on its form of access.

      The same movie that was such precious IP when it was made becomes free late-night TV fodder in short order.

      If you want to be an IP-purist, you’re going to run into all sorts of problems. If you get your dander up over people swapping digital copies of things, i suspect you should probably prosecute the streetcorner booksellers as well.

  11. As some of you may know, I am involved in television/film production as an ancillary service provider (I provide craft services and location catering throughout the Northeast). In my decade+ of on-set experience, I have never once heard ANYONE (from producer down to production assistant) complain about piracy. Most of our down time on set is spent watching pirated media on laptops, phones, and tablets and sharing pirated media with one another. Seriously, there are some shoots where 3/4 of the crew shows up with external hard drives and we set up a swap session in the back of one of the trucks.

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