IP Outreach Research > IP Crime


Title: Consumer File Sharing of Motion Pictures
Author: Thorsten Hennig-Thurau and Victor Henning [Bauhaus-University of Weimar], Henrik Sattler [University of Hamburg]

Journal of Marketing 71, no. 4: 1-18

Year: 2007


Subject/Type: Piracy
Focus: Film
Country/Territory: Germany
Objective: To find out about the consequences and determinants of movie file sharing.
Sample: 1.075 German consumers
Methodology: Internet questionnaires

Main Findings

Of a 25 movies sample covering all major pictures, 17% of respondents had obtained at least one illegal copy before the movies were released on DVD. After the movies had been released on DVD, 18.5% reported having obtained at least one copy of a surveyed movie.

Consumer intentions to watch an illegal copy of a movie are found to have a decisive negative impact on the probability that the consumer will: watch the movie in a movie theatre; rent the movie on DVD; or purchase the movie on DVD.

A consumer’s obtainment/watching of an illegal movie copy reduces the probability that the consumer will watch the movie in a movie theatre. However, it does not have any negative effect on DVD rental or purchases.

The following determinants of motion picture file sharing were found:

- the degree of substitution (the more a consumer judges illegal movie copies as substitutes for legal ones, the more likely he/she is to obtain/watch illegal copies)

- the costs associated with consuming an original movie (the higher the costs of consuming the original, the higher the probability of illegally obtaining a copy)

- the transaction costs of the illegal copy (the higher search and moral costs of the copy, the lower the probability of obtaining illegal copies; the lower the technical costs of the copy, the greater the probability of obtaining/watching illegal copies)

- specific utilities of the illegal copy: perceptions of illegal movie copies as collectibles (collection utility, the main single driver of movie file sharing), and consumer anti-industry attitude (anti-industry utility) make the obtainment of illegal copies likelier

- consumer file-sharing knowledge (the greater the consumer’s file-sharing knowledge, the more likely he/she is to obtain illegal copies).

While only the degree of substitution and technical costs affect illegal movie watching directly, all the other variables affect illegal movie watching indirectly, through the obtainment of an illegal movie copy.

In view of the finding that consumer intentions to engage in illegal file sharing cause them to forgo theatre visits, legal DVD rentals, and legal DVD purchases, the authors argue that decreasing consumer intentions to watch illegal movie copies may be the most powerful way to fight movie piracy.

The determinants of motion picture file sharing found in the study offer the following starting points for piracy countermeasures:

- stressing the unethical element of illegal copying could increase the moral costs of file sharing and lower file-sharing activities

- lowering transaction costs associated with movie watching by making movies available through new channels (e.g. video-on-demand) with lower transaction costs/by shortening the time gap between theatre and home entertainment channels may be an appropriate way to win back transaction-cost sensitive customers

- emphasising the uniqueness of legal movie consumption (e.g. the social element of moviegoing) and elements to legal consumption that can hardly be included in illegal copies (e.g. attractive DVD packaging) can help decrease piracy, especially by reducing the collectability value of illegal copies.

Given their absence among file-sharing determinants, the authors perceive focusing on legal costs (i.e. the consumer’s fear of legal prosecution) as less effective for reducing movie piracy.

[Date Added: Oct 22, 2008 ]