The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has published a report which estimates the online film piracy market to be $3.3bn (KW3.75 trillion won) a year.

The governmental organization also estimates that the benefit of turning this illegal business legitimate would expand the legal online market by at least $468.5m (KW530bn).

KOFIC analyzed the state of online film piracy from February to April 2013, tracking an average of 2,322 films a month illegally circulated on 93 “webhards” (online storage and sharing sites). The tracking estimates the online pirated film market to come to $61.9m (KW70bn) a month and $742.7m (KW840bn) a year.

Factoring in the actual number of films in distribution and the reality of foreign sites such as YouTube and Baidu, KOFIC puts the entire illegal distribution market at $3.3bn a year. This is calculated at the rates of legal usage fees.

The report highlights the potential to bring this “underground economy” into the light.

KOFIC estimates that even just applying the 8.5% of users who answered in a 2012 survey that they would be willing to use legal online services if piracy were to be cracked down upon, films’ digital online market would expand 2.5 times its current size to $468.5m.

KOFIC states, “We are at the point of achieving the qualitative improvement of Korean films after longtime efforts and need to bring the illegal market into the light in order for the film industry to overcome a profit structure which is overly dependent on theatrical and to become globally competitive.”