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Most Pirated Film of 2011 Still Earned $626M

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The MPAA needs another argument.

Like the RIAA before it, the film industry's collection of ornery busybodies has long argued that piracy has a massive detrimental effect on profits. Along with its dubious methods of rating films, the MPAA has equally suspect -- and widely debunked -- arguments on how every BitTorrent download takes money from the studios' well-stuffed coffers.

But as we saw with the hugely successful opening weekend and global box office of X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- despite the fact that the leaked workprint was downloaded 4.5 million times by Fox's (NWS) estimation -- the most pirated movie of 2011 also enjoyed abundant returns in theaters.

According to TorrentFreak, Fast Five -- the latest entry in Universal's (CMCSA) high-octane franchise -- was the number one illegally downloaded movie this year with an estimated 9.2 million downloads. The film, however, earned $626 million in theaters worldwide.

The other entries on TorrentFreak's list didn't do too badly either. In the number two slot was Warner Bros' (TWX) hit comedy sequel The Hangover II, which had a worldwide tally of $581 million. Marvel's (DIS) Thor rounded out the top three and earned nearly $450 million for the mouse studio.

In fact, only two films -- 127 Hours and Sucker Punch -- earned less than $100 million globally. However, one could argue that a story that everyone's heard of and a story no one wanted to hear in the first place wouldn't, necessarily, be affected by piracy anyway.

And of the top ten most pirated, one -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 -- earned over $1.3 billion worldwide, not to mention the countless millions Warner Bros. will earn from rentals and DVD sales. Doesn't seem like 6 million illegal downloads hurt the final tally.

Nevertheless, for the foreseeable future, the MPAA will toss around unfounded numbers on how those AVIs and MP4s on your Mac (AAPL) and PC (MSFT) equate to billions lost each year -- and will continue to do so until the archaic institution makes like the RIAA and fully embraces online streaming content via YouTube (GOOG), Netflix (NFLX), and Hulu.

(See also: "Drunken Shopping" a Huge Revenue Stream for Amazon, eBay and Google Engineer Calls Google+ a Complete Failure)

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