R.T. Watson and Erich Schwartzel, Wall Street Journal:
Millions of people are watching high-quality, pirated online versions of Hollywood’s top movies sooner than ever after their releases, undermining potential ticket sales and subscriber growth as the industry embraces streaming.
Copies of several of the year’s most popular films, from “The Suicide Squad” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” to “Jungle Cruise” and “Black Widow,” shot up almost immediately after their premieres to the top of the most-downloaded charts on piracy websites such as the Pirate Bay and LimeTorrents, according to piracy-tracking organizations.
“Pirates behave like consumers do,” said Carnegie Mellon University professor and piracy expert Michael D. Smith. “If you make it sufficiently hard for them to get something free, they’ll pay for it.”
The reverse seems as likely to be true: people will seek alternative channels when it is unnecessarily difficult for them to spend money on a new release. Sure, not all of those who downloaded ripped copies of these movies would have paid for them if the ripped version was somehow not available. But I think a lot of them would be happy to watch it on the streaming service of their choice. Because studios are so desperate to re-create the cable television experience through exclusivity demands and siloed libraries, piracy is appealing again.