Box office hits booty for pirates

MediaForce, a digital copyright enforcement agency, lists the top pirated films on the Internet for June were, in order: Snatch, Pearl Harbor, Traffic, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Shrek, The Matrix, Gone in 60 Seconds, Hannibal, Gladiator and X-Men, Variety reports.

Three of those top 10 titles–Tomb Raider, Shrek and Pearl Harbor–are box office hits currently still in theaters, with a combined gross of more than $540 million.

“The availability of first-run films on the Internet … shows that the threat to the motion picture industry of digital piracy is very real,” Aaron Fessler, Chief Executive Officer of MediaForce, said.

Fessler senses that the piracy problem will worsen, as tools to convert DVDs into a viewable format for online transfer become easier to use. Bootleggers, who record movies on a digital video recorder, pirate movies not yet released on DVD.

Founded earlier this year, MediaForce claims to scan the Internet every 15 minutes, identifying Web sites, news groups and peer-to-peer services that traffic and host pirated materials. More than one million copies of movies were pirated online in June, MediaForce said.

An estimated $2.5 billion is lost each year to video piracy, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.