Study: Internet Movie Piracy May Help Independent Films

Todd Rigney

A recent study suggests that movie piracy is somewhat beneficial to independent movies, according to Indiewire.

Researchers at the Munich School of Management and Copenhagen Business School have published a paper which states file sharing websites can actually help indie films by effectively spreading the good word.

"Piracy and Movie Revenues: Evidence from Megaupload" suggests the word of mouth which spreads after someone illegally downloads an independently-financed movie can actually helped increase box office revenue for some features. The paper also states that revenue for such projects decreased once Megaupload was shut down by authorities.

According to NMR, researchers poured over statistics for 1400 movies in 49 countries across a span of five years. Although big-budget features and summer blockbusters didn't experience a decrease in box office revenue, smaller films that rely on word of mouth saw a drop in their box office earnings.

As Worst Previews points out, many people download smaller films and review them on blogs, websites, and various social media networks. As a result, moviegoers learn about a feature that may otherwise have fallen between the proverbial cracks.

Megaupload was considered to be the easiest and fastest way to acquire pirated movies until the MPAA effectively shuttered the site last January. The study states that independent features may have suffered a financial loss as a result.

One filmmaker who may not agree with this assessment is Darren Lynn Bousman, director of the box office failure 11-11-11. Bousman believes the availability of the film on torrent sites weeks before its theatrical debut played a key role in its financial disappointment.

"In a case like '11-11-11,' it wasn't just that it leaked online," the director explained to 411mania. "It was the wrong version leaked online, and that's where I think I have my problem. It's not the fact it was leaked online because you can't stop that. It was the fact it was the wrong movie that was leaked online and it was being reviewed by mainstream critics. That's why I kind of lost my shit and got mad."

Do you think internet piracy actually helps independent movies find an audience?