December 31, 2009 | By Fred von Lohmann

Most Pirated Movie of 2009 ... Makes Heaps of Money

According to TorrentFreak, last summer's Star Trek movie was the "most pirated movie of 2009." So it seems that Paramount Pictures was prescient when it gave testimony before the FCC that used Star Trek as an illustrative example of how "Internet piracy" is poised to devastate Hollywood and (though the nexus here is less than clear) undermine residential broadband in America.

Funny thing is, Star Trek is on course to make more than $100 million in profits.

Here's the financial breakdown, courtesy of The Numbers.com, which gathers financial data for movie industry analysts:

Production costs: $140m
Promotion costs: ~$100m
Global box office revenues: $385m
U.S. TV syndication rights: $30m
DVD & Bluray revenues (anticipated, based on sales and rentals since Nov. 2009): >$100m

Based on these figures, film industry analyst Bruce Nash at The Numbers predicts a net profit to Paramount of more than $100m on the movie. Not bad for the "most pirated movie of 2009," which was camcorded and widely released on the Internet within days of theatrical release.

This is just one data point suggesting that Hollywood's hue and cry about "Internet piracy" should be taken with a grain of salt. Other data points include Hollywood's record breaking box office results for 2009 (in the midst of a recession!). And the fact that twice as many movies were released in 2009, as compared to 2004. (There is also far more new music being released today than 10 years ago, thanks to new digital technologies.)

The goal of copyright is to encourage creativity. As 2009 comes to a close, there is no evidence out there that "Internet piracy" is leaving us with fewer creators or fewer copyrighted works, even if you limit yourself to considering works being created by "professionals" employed by movie studios. And once you factor in all the new, noncommercial or semi-pro creators who have been empowered by the very same Internet technologies that Hollywood is blaming for "piracy," well, it seems clear that creativity is alive and well, and that Hollywood's demands for drastic overhauls of copyright law and broadband policy are disconnected from reality.

And, importantly, some of what Hollywood calls "piracy" is actually the result of its stubborn refusal to give legitimate customers what they want, whether it's home media servers for their DVDs, the right to rip DVDs to make noncommercial remixes, or new options to rent DVDs. (Or new video-on-demand offerings unless the FCC first approves "selectable output control" DRM restrictions for our TVs.)

Yes, there are lots of unauthorized copies being made out there. But despite what Hollywood's spokesmen would have us believe, the sky is not falling. In fact, as we ring in 2010, many industries would happily trade places with the major Hollywood movie studios.


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