The most pirated movies are the hardest to buy online

Hollywood likes to paint movie pirates as freeloaders without morals, but maybe those so-called dastardly downloaders are simply under-served.

A new website called PiracyData.org tracks the most pirated movies of the week, as reported by TorrentFreak, and taps into Can I Stream It? to show whether file sharers could have bought or rented the movie online instead.

As PiracyData's chart below shows, four out of the 10 most pirated movies cannot be purchased legally online. Out of the remaining six movies, three are available for full-priced purchase, but not for rent. None of the top 10 movies can be watched through subscription streaming services such as Netflix.

(Click to enlarge.)

On its face, it looks like a missed opportunity for the movie industry. Viewers may feel pushed toward piracy when they can't purchase or at least rent the movies they want to watch.

But it's also worth noting the release timing of these movies. Every single movie on the list came out this year, but is no longer showing in major theaters. With the exception of three films, most of these movies are now in an awkward stage where you can buy them on DVD, but cannot rent them online.

DVD sales are plummeting. People are growing accustomed to pressing a button and streaming a movie instantly. The idea of withholding new movies from digital rental just to juice DVD sales looks increasingly antiquated as people move beyond the optical disc. For disposable films that people only want to watch once, a mandatory $15 or $20 purchase is undesirable as well.

Of course, there are exceptions. People do have rental options for The Lone Ranger, After Earth, and This is the End, yet they remain popular to download on BitTorrent. Unscrupulous freeloaders do exist, and are not going away. But when the only legal options are DVD or mandatory purchase, it's no surprise that potential paying customers will turn to piracy instead.

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