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Movie Filesharing as a New Distribution Mechanism

Next at COST298 is Rita Espanha, who shifts our interest to the effects of peer-to-peer filesharing of movies on cinema in Portugal. She begins by taking us through the key features of European cinema (as opposed to Hollywood) - the different content and narrative style, the funding support by national governments and related institutions, and the comparatively more limited distribution.

There are a number of different consumer types here, too - traditional consumers (mainstream TV channels, regular cinema goers), mainstream consumers (mainstream channels, less frequent cinema goers), and innovative (networked) consumers (also using other media, and especially the Internet, to access cinema content).

Globally, there now are around 10 million movie filesharers online at any one time, and especially the use of Bittorrent-based technology is still growing. Movies now make up between one and two thirds of content shared through Bittorrent, in fact. In p2p filesharing, each user necessarily becomes a network node; this is different from earlier direct download models.

Rita's project examined the representation of some 50 movies, released in Portugal, on Bittorrent networks. 70% of the top 20 cinema movies were produced in the US, so Hollywood dominates here, too (as does English language); however, p2p filesharing put more emphasis on non-Hollywood movies, which supports the thesis that filesharers engage in their activities especially to circumvent the dominance of US movies and access movies with limited distribution.

From this perspective, then, filesharing increases audiences' access to international cinema and could be considered an important distribution mechanism for such content. Continuing industry efforts (in the EU and elsewhere) to curb filesharing activities could therefore be seen as a step in the wrong direction.

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