Researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center have launched a website – PiracyData.org – which they suggest indicates that search engines are not promoting pirated content, countering claims made by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that search engines facilitate piracy.
The MPAA mid-September released research claiming that search engines play a significant role in introducing audiences to infringing movies and TV shows online, reporting that 74 per cent of consumers surveyed cited using a search engine as a discovery or navigation tool in their initial viewing sessions on sites with infringing content.
The website ranks the 10 most pirated movies on BitTorrent as compiled by Torrent Freak and then details if those films are available for legal online viewing. According to Jerry Brito, director of the Mercatus Center’s Technology Policy Programme, when movies are unavailable, illegal sources may be the most relevant search results. “Despite what the content industry might like to see, search engines are just telling it like it is,” he asserted, suggesting that the fact that movies are not available digitally does not excuse piracy, “But it also shouldn’t be incumbent upon search engines to change what they do in order to prop up another industry’s business model.”
The site reports that three of this week’s top 10 pirated movies are available through digital rental services and six are available for digital purchase. None are available through streaming services.
The MPAA advises viewers to visit the association’s website – WhereToWatch.org – describing it as “a one stop compilation of legitimate platforms available in the US”.
“Today there are more ways than ever to watch movies and TV shows legally online, and more are constantly being added. If a particular film isn’t available for stream or purchase at a given moment, however, it does not justify stealing it from the creators and makers who worked hard to make it,” said the MPAA. “Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires comprehensive, voluntary solutions from all stakeholders involved.”