A new study has found that piracy, specifically BitTorrent downloads, doesn't affect box office sales, debunking what the film industry has stated for years.
The academic paper was undertaken by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Wellesley College, with the results suggesting that the only time downloads can impact total revenue for a movie is when there's a long release schedule. Known as 'Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales," the paper concluded that the main problem was with delays between US and international releases.
Just to hammer the point home: It's the same with DVD region locks, it's the practices that the movie industry has in place to help prevent piracy that causes the most downloads. I think we finally have an answer to the chicken and egg problem.
"We find that longer release windows are associated with decreased box office returns, even after controlling for film and country fixed effects. This relationship is much stronger in contexts where piracy is more prevalent: after BitTorrent's adoption and in heavily pirated genres," the paper reads.
"Our findings indicate that, as a lower bound, international box office returns in our sample were at least 7% lower than they would have been in the absence of pre-release piracy."
As TorrentFreak points out, perhaps the most important part of the study however, is that locally, within the US, there was no drop in cinema ticket sales after the introduction of BitTorrent. Despite more films being downloaded in the past decade than the one before, movie goers didn't stop going to the box office.
It's results like these that prove the flaws in bills like SOPA, PIPA and most recently ACTA. The whole point of these acts is to help enforce copyright since the movie industry and lobbyists like the MPAA and RIAA, claim that downloaded movies and music lead to lost sales in the industry. That is quite clearly not the case.