Secret Study: Piracy No Big Deal

A European government study found little evidence that piracy affects sales of anything other than “recently released blockbusters.” Despite being completed in May 2015, it appears not to have been published until now.

The study has come to light on the blog of Julia Reda, the only politician from a national Pirate Party to currently be a member of the European Parliament. She’s put the study online.

It was commissioned by the European Commission, the body that proposes new legislation for European Parliament members to debate. Reda says the report, titled “Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU” was commissioned in January 2014 and delivered in May 2015, but not published or made accessible to Parliament members.

The study was designed to investigate links between online copyright infringement and sales of copyrighted content, along with how much copyright infringers said they’d be willing to pay for copyrighted content. It looked specifically at music, audio-visual material (ie TV and movies), books and games.

The study concluded that in most cases there was no reliable statistical evidence that the level of people consuming pirated content had an effect on legal sales. While the study suggested piracy had a big effect on movie and TV sales, the finding was considered ‘not robust’.

The only exception was for recent top films, which had an average displacement rate of 40 percent, meaning that for every 10 pirate viewings, legal sales dropped by four. However, given the estimated number of pirated viewings, the study concluded that legal sales were only down five percent overall because of piracy. The authors also noted that few piraters watched a recent movie more than once, suggesting piracy was only really affecting pay-per-view/rental streams rather than outright purchases.

The participants in the study were also asked how much they would have been willing to pay for the last thing they pirated had buying it legally been their only option. Overall it found most people who pirated a movie or TV series wouldn’t have been willing to pay the current price for the legal product. With books, games and music, people said they’d be willing to pay the current price, suggesting either they were lying or that they were pirating for reasons of convenience