Stolen a film? MPAA wants to know

One in four online has illegally downloaded a feature film--and it's slicing into box-office and DVD sales, industry group says.

One in four people online has illegally downloaded a feature film--and it's cutting into box-office and DVD sales, the Motion Picture Association of America said in a study released Thursday.

A survey of 3,600 Internet users in eight countries showed that as many as 50 percent had downloaded copyrighted content in the last year. Of those people who have downloaded films, 17 percent said they are going to the movies less often, and 26 percent said they bought fewer DVDs, according to online researcher OTX, which conducted the study in partnership with the MPAA.

The trade group did not have box-office sales figures for 2004. But global movie admissions were down by 4 percent in 2003 to about 1.57 billion, compared with 1.64 billion in 2002, according to research provided by the MPAA.

Still, from 1993 to 2004, admissions have gone up 27 percent, by 330 million, and DVD sales and rentals have shot up by 50 percent from 2002 to 2003, the research showed.

The primary concern, the MPAA said, is as broadband Internet connections spread faster to countries around the world, more people will take to illegal downloading. For example, an estimated 98 percent of South Korea's population uses broadband. Nearly 60 percent of the population has reportedly downloaded movies, and one in three say they go to the box office less often, according to the survey.

"It's not hard to imagine as other countries become increasingly broadband based we'll see more of this happen," said Matthew Grossman, a spokesman for the MPAA.

There are approximately 29.2 million broadband households in the United States, according to market researcher The Yankee Group.

Also of concern is consumers' attitudes. The study found that 69 percent of those surveyed don't believe downloading movies is a major concern in today's society. Little more than half of people who have already downloaded films online expect to continue to do so, and 17 percent who don't already do it, plan to. Also, 38 percent of those surveyed said it was OK to download a film before it's released in theaters.

For this reason, the MPAA has launched a worldwide campaign to monitor online film-downloading more closely and educate people on the implications of pirating movies. It has created movie trailers to warn people against illegal downloading and making pirated copies of films, among other tactics.

The study was conducted with residents of Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.