After Google, MPAA Spat, PiracyData Reports Most-Pirated Films Are Unavailable, a new website built by folks from the Mercatus Center at George Washington University, highlights a fact that has been too little known for some time: The most popular pirated content is often unavailable for streaming, rental, or digital purchase and is, therefore, virtually impossible to view legally.

According to PiracyData, of the 10 most recently top pirated movies, all 10 were unavailable for streaming on services, such as Netflix. Three were available for digital rental, and five were available for digital sale. So of the most pirated films during the week in which the most recent data was recorded, a full half had no legal viewing option at all.

We don’t need to litigate the issue of the film industry’s outdated content release schedules, but it does seem fair to imply that if desired content is not made legally available, those seeking it will turn to other means. For years, that has meant quick and easy piracy. And I think it reasonable to say that by not providing legal options for content viewing, the film industry is exacerbating the piracy issue.

Ask any Spotify user if their pirating of music has ceased since they started to use the service. The same goes for Netflix users and Amazon instant video users, as well. Piracy is illegal, and should not be minimized in its potential impact, but to not have legal options to view popular content in place strikes me as backwards.

The launch of PiracyData is quite timely, given a recent spat between Google and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The MPAA has its fur up after Google released a report detailing what it considered to be its successful effort to limit how much it directed people to websites that contain pirated content. The MPAA doesn’t agree, claiming that 82 percent of search engine traffic to infringing sites was sent by Google. Given Google’s 70 percent or so global search market share, that figure is hardly surprising.

By not making content legally available in a timely fashion, the MPAA’s complaints against Google fail to shift the onus of responsibility to the search giant. If the MPAA wishes to limit piracy, making new content legally available in a timely fashion for streaming, rental, and digital download is the sensible action.

According to a statement from the MPAA provided to The Hill, “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.”

That is correct. But to not sell a product to a willing customer, and then to complain when they get it on the black market, is one way to run a business, I suppose.

Top Image Credit: Bryan Brenneman