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New study claims: 1. Make something easy to buy 2. ??? 3. Profit

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Hollywood could slash piracy rates by simply making its content easily and legally available, rather than trying legal and technological hacks to sustain its current business model.

That's according to researchers from libertarian think tank the Mercatus Center. The team analyzed file-sharing news website TorrentFreak's weekly top-10 most-pirated media, cross-referenced it with stats on legitimate media buying and streaming, and published it all on the new Piracydata.org.

Over the past three weeks the data has shown that none of the pirates' top picks were available for legal streaming and only 53 per cent were available to buy at all, and only 20 per cent of which were available to rent.

"The MPAA is complaining that Google leads people to infringing links," team leader Jerry Brito told the Washington Post. "But what's the alternative?"

The media companies need to "change its business model to take their own voluntary measures to deal with piracy," he said, rather than trying to alter search results to demote links to pirated material.

There's a growing body of evidence showing a link between the availability of content and piracy rates, and there's a proven market for legal content. A common complaint from the music industry is that "you can't compete with free." Tell that to Apple, which is reaping billions from iTunes purchases.

The media industry fought hard against the iPod maker's pricing policy when iTunes first launched, as the industry wanted to set its own pricing and file-copying controls – none of which were working. But, thanks to the iPod, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had the industry by the balls and forced it to accept his terms.

The end result is that music piracy rates have dropped significantly and lots of revenue generated – although not as much as the media industry would like. El Reg wonders what would have happened if the industry had bought out Napster and embraced digital media sooner rather than fighting against it.

Meanwhile, the policy of bringing legal cases against digital pirates and trying to get legislation to remove internet access from those suspected of illegal file-sharing have reaped the industry acres of bad publicity, a trickle of compensation, and a lot of disgruntled customers. But it does seem that while piracy is always with us, most people prefer to stay on the right side of the law.

The results of the study garnered a quick response from the Motion Picture Ass. of America. Its spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield poured cold water on the findings. She pointed out that the recent zombie TV show The Walking Dead was pirated half a million times in the first day of its release despite it being available on a free streaming service in 125 countries worldwide.

"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," she said in an emailed statement.

"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." ®

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