Pic piracy rampant in South Korea

More than half of Net users have downloaded pix

HOLLYWOOD — If South Korea is an indication of the future of online movie piracy, Hollywood has an even bigger problem than many have thought.

A new study of Internet film piracy in eight countries, conducted by the Motion Picture Assn. of America and online research firm OTX, revealed that a remarkable 58% of Internet users in South Korea have downloaded movies. That’s more than double the number in the next highest country included in the study and significantly higher than the average of 24%, the same figure as in the U.S.

Researchers attributed the differential primarily to the fact that 98% of South Koreans have high-speed Internet access, as opposed to 46% in the U.S. As broadband access in the U.S. and other developed countries grows to approach that of Korea, though, study indicates their piracy rates could reach the same level.

“Online piracy is really a function of broadband access,” said Perry Katz, a consultant to OTX on the study. “And as broadband spreads across the world and compression technology improves, it will only get easier.”

Study also looked at the impact of Net piracy on DVD sales and found 26% of downloaders reported they buy fewer DVDs now than they had in the past. Once again, South Korea’s figure was significantly higher, with 52% spending less on DVDs, while the figure was a smaller 13% in the U.S.

“The nature of movie piracy has all the characteristics of a growing global epidemic,” John Malcolm, the MPAA’s senior VP of worldwide antipiracy operations, said of the study.

Research indicated downloaders view the availability of a film on DVD as a justification for illegal downloads. Asked whether they believed online piracy was wrong, nearly half of respondents said they think it is acceptable to download a film before it’s released on DVD. That figure drops to just 21%, though, after the DVD comes out.

Data indicate Hollywood’s push to compress release windows and bring out DVDs quicker may help reduce Net users’ willingness to download pics.

While the simple fact that pirated films are free was most often cited as a reason for downloading, study found moviegoers in Europe, where prices tend to be higher than in the U.S., were more likely to cite the cost of tickets and DVDs.

Quashing desire

OTX and MPAA showed participants a new trailer the trade org plans to run as part of its stepped up antipiracy educational campaign. (Daily Variety, June 16) While groups didn’t reveal the exact figures, they said immediately after viewing the trailer, downloading intentions declined “dramatically” among both downloaders and non-downloaders. The trailer was said to be particularly effective in Asia-Pacific markets, where piracy is most prevalent.

Study, which surveyed Internet users in the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, the U.K., France and Australia, was initially shown to top studio execs at the Cannes Film Festival. Findings were released to reps from the major studios at an MPAA event Thursday.

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