Experts estimated yesterday that at least 250,000 copies of the lastest James Bond move had been downloaded
Although record audiences turned out over the weekend for the opening of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig in his debut outing as Bond, it also became the first 007 movie to become a large-scale victim of online piracy.
Experts estimated yesterday that at least 250,000 copies had been downloaded, with the movie freely available on file-sharing websites within hours of going on general release.
With the prevalence of high speed broadband connections and greater awareness of BitTorrent distribution sites, studios fear that growing numbers of people are downloading free films and TV shows as a matter of course.
"By Saturday, regular downloaders could easily find copies of Casino Royale on a wide range of file-sharing networks," said David Price, head of piracy intelligence at the internet monitoring firm Envisional. He said there had been an estimated 200,000 downloads in the first few of days after the film's release and the losses to the film industry were running in the millions.
The first version made available was a poor-quality copy apparently shot in a Russian cinema using a camcorder, but by Saturday a better-quality version had appeared, uploaded by a group called Pukka.
"BitTorrent makes it so easy get up-to-date content. The more people there are trying to download something, the faster it spreads. It has revolutionised the speed at which pirated movies propagate," said Mr Price. The company estimated that more than 10 million people in Europe, Asia and the US were regularly downloading films and television programmes for nothing over the internet. MGM went to great lengths to prevent Casino Royale from leaking out ahead of its release but has been powerless to stop it spreading around the internet.
Despite the leak, Casino Royale, which has received positive reviews for its back to basics approach, made $82.8m (£44m) on its opening weekend, a box office take more than two-thirds bigger than any previous Bond. In the UK, the movie enjoyed the second biggest opening ever behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.