Thousands of people around the world are illegally downloading the pandemic movie Contagion following the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film is about a fictional global disease that health officials struggle to contain and how there can be a loss of social order during a pandemic. The Verge and TorrentFreak partnered to study the rise of people downloading Contagion between January 1 and March 4. Before January 24 Contagion was being torrented about 200 times per day globally, and on January 25 it jumped to over 1500. Once the disease had arrived in the US, there were over 18,000 downloads each day. There has also been a large increase in iTunes rentals of the film in the US where it was the 15th most rented movie on January 29. This time last year it wasn’t even in the top 100, according to Buzzfeed. Online search trends for “Contagion movie” spiked on January 31, but the search term continued to have popularity throughout February and into early March, Google Trends shows.

How similar is the virus in the movie to coronavirus?

While the fictional disease in Contagion kills millions – making it far more deadly than COVID-19 – the film’s writer Scott Z. Burns told Fortune magazine he was more interested in using the virus to explore “how the preexisting conditions in our society make us susceptible to fear as well as the virus”.

“The similarities between our contagion and the coronavirus are immaterial, accidental, and really not that important. What is more important and accurate is the societal response and the spread of fear and the knock-on effects of that. That is proving to be accurate.”

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