Movie Studios Claim That Google Fiber Leads To More Piracy

Even though any decent broadband connection will suffice for illegally sharing copyrighted movies and TV shows, at least two movie studios believe that the faster speeds offered by Google Fiber will result in billions of additional lost dollars for the entertainment industry.

This is according to a Warner Bros. and Sony report leaked to TorrentFreak. Researchers surveyed people in the Kansas City area — the first to get access to Google Fiber — and concluded that 31% of everyone in the market is already pirating video content.

Can that be true? That means that if you are in a room with two other people, one of you is illegally sharing content online. This figure just seems incredibly high to us, but let’s just move forward under the assumption that it’s right.

Then the survey says that 26% of current non-pirates (18% of the entire population) would suddenly decide to get into pirating if they had speedier access via Google Fiber.

Again, since just about anyone with a broadband connection can currently download and seed just about anything they want through a wide array of torrent-tracking services, the idea that 1-in-5 Americans is just waiting for gigabit broadband before getting into the piracy game seems specious at best.

But once more, let’s just assume that this is accurate. The study then goes on to say that if all of these people decided to become pirates (yarrr, avast, and all that), it would result in an additional $1.011 billion in losses for the industry.

This is based on the highly questionable notion that every pirate behaves the same way and that these new entrants into the piracy field would behave like the current pirates. Furthermore, the research seems to assume a loss for movie studios any time a pirate watches a movie for free, ignoring the possibility that the viewer would never have paid to see that film.

As much as movie piracy is illegal, it’s not always the equivalent of stealing a physical good. If you steal a product off a store’s shelf, not only are you getting it without paying, but the store can no longer sell it to anyone else. But if you watch a pirated movie, it does not necessarily mean that others are prevented from seeing it. This is not to excuse or encourage piracy; merely pointing out a problem with calculating loss.

The report also extrapolates the results of the KC survey to a national market. What might be true in one regional survey may be wildly inaccurate for another part of the country.

In fact, the researchers’ use of St. Louis as a control market actually undercuts the studios’ theory. In KC, where Google Fiber exists, 24% of pirates said that the speed of their broadband connection was a factor in their decision to pirate. Meanwhile, in Google Fiber-less St. Louis, 29% of pirates cite fast connection speeds as a factor.

And finally, as TorrentFreak points out, the report ignores survey results that show the positives of Google Fiber. For example, 39% of respondents said they would use paid streaming subscription services more frequently (thus giving more value to the content that the studios license to Netflix, et al). Another 34% said they would rent and purchase more online video, providing a direct source of revenue for the studios.

So even if you accept the theory that gigabit broadband could add another billion dollars to the total piracy losses for movie studios, the studios should also be showing the additional money they plan to make from legal streaming and downloading.

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