Profile of the modern pirate

People who illegally download billions of pounds worth of movies also love going to the cinema and don’t mind paying to watch movies.

In the first study to examine the differences between movie and music pirates, the key finding was those who steal movies seem to be an entirely different breed from those who steal music.

In addition to movie pirates being less likely to stop paying to see movies alongside stealing them, prolific movie pirates also tend to be wealthier, less worried  about being caught and more likely to cut down their  piracy if they think they are harming  the industry.

The research, by Dr Joe Cox and Professor Alan Collins, economists at the University of Portsmouth, also found that compared to those who steal music, movie pirates are more likely to live in large cities and be ‘early adopters’ of new technology.

The research is published in the Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics.

The researchers analysed results from a survey of more than 6,000 people aged seven to 84 to examine the attitudes of those who illegally download movies and music from the internet.

On average, each person had illegally downloaded about 2,900 music files and 90 movie files. Experts claim the cost of piracy in the US alone is $US12.5bn to the music industry and $US20.5bn to the movie industry.

Dr Cox said: “It is interesting to see that people who illegally download large quantities of movie files continue to pay for legal movie consumption to a far greater extent than music downloaders.

“However, it came as no surprise to find that the most prolific pirates of either movies or music tend to be younger men. They have the skills, the motivation and the equipment to between them to steal large volumes of music tracks and movies every month.”

Pirates are generally motivated first and foremost by saving money, and second, by seeing themselves as helping artists bypass middlemen and reach wider audiences, the study found. But it also found significant differences in the behaviour and attitudes of music and movie pirates. Those who illegally download large volumes of movie files are likely to be significantly:

  • less likely  to cut back their spending on legal movies compared to those who steal music;
  • better off financially than music pirates;
  • more likely to be male;
  • less likely to think they’ll be caught compared to those who steal music;
  • more likely to limit their piracy if they think stealing is harms the film industry.

Dr Cox said: “One of the reasons movie pirates are a different breed is downloading and file-sharing films is much more technologically demanding. It requires faster internet speeds, greater digital storage capabilities and access to a wider range of devices for playback than pirating music, which has now become relatively simple, fast and cheap.”

The researchers, from Portsmouth Business School, analysed a Finnish survey dataset of 6,100 people, which reinforces that piracy is not limited to the US and UK markets and that the behaviours and attitudes are similar worldwide.


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