Movie piracy and sales displacement in two samples of Chinese consumers

Joel Waldfogel, University of Minnesota, and Jie Bai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Information Economics and Policy Volume 24, Issues 3–4, December 2012, Pages 187 -196

Abstract: Intellectual property piracy is widely believed, by authorities in both US industry and government, to be rampant in China. Because we lack evidence on the rate at which unpaid consumption displaces paid consumption, we know little about the size of the effect of pirate consumption on the volume of paid consumption. We provide direct evidence on both the volume of unpaid consumption and the rate of sales displacement for movies in China using two surveys administered in late 2008 and mid-2009. First, using a survey of Chinese college students’ movie consumption and an empirical approach parallel to a similar recent study of US college students, we find that three quarters of movie consumption is unpaid and that each instance of unpaid consumption displaces 0.14 paid consumption instances. Second, a survey of online Chinese consumers reveals similar patterns of paid and unpaid movie consumption but a displacement rate of roughly zero. We speculate on the small displacement rate finding relative to most of the piracy literature.

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