American Sniper may only have squeaked by with an award for best sound editing at last night’s Academy Awards, but the controversial war flick took home another, far less prestigious superlative: It was the most pirated Oscar nominee of the season.
Since the Oscar nominations were announced on January 15, American Sniper—which has already grossed an impressive $350 million at the box office—was downloaded more than 1.3 million times worldwide, according to recent data from Irdeto, a company that sells anti-piracy tools.
Following in second place on the most-pirated list was Gone Girl, which was illegally downloaded more than 1.2 million times. According to the company, Gone Girl was the most pirated of the Oscar nominee films before the nominations were announced. But on January 15, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences included American Sniper among the nominees for Best Picture, that film took the lead worldwide in the period studied, between January 15 and February 14.
The company monitored illegal downloads of movies in the US and 200 other countries using crawlers that use tracking software to identify users and files on the BitTorrent network. While Irdeto notes that not every download can be counted as a lost sale, it estimates American Sniper piracy was equivalent to $24.3 million in lost revenue, based on the cost of a $19.99 BluRay disc; total lost sales of movies not yet released on home video equaled $40.8 million.
Best Picture winner Birdman was another favorite among downloaders, who nabbed a free digital copy of that movie more than 796,000 times. All told, the Oscar nomination announcements reportedly fueled a 385% increase in piracy around the world.
Nearly one third of the movie downloads in Irdeto’s data set came from Hollywood screeners, the advance DVDs and Blu-Ray discs sent to film critics and film industry insiders ahead of a movie’s release.
Piracy remains a challenge for the film industry, whose wares make up a significant portion of illegal downloads overall. In the first 48 hours of the Pirate Bay’s recent return to the Internet, movies made up 50% of all files downloaded from the notorious piracy hub. That data was gathered right in the middle of Oscar nomination season, so it may be somewhat skewed. Still, suffice it to say that movies make up a huge percentage of illegal downloads overall. And, ironically, that the sheer marketing power of Hollywood’s biggest awards show, intended to trumpet the industry’s successes, contributes to that trend.