Zhuang Liu

Welcome to my Homepage. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Economics Department at University of Western Ontario.

My research interests include industrial orgnization, intellectual property, economics of digitalization and applied econometrics.

I will be available for interviews at the 2019 ASSA meetings in Atlanta, as well as the 2018 CEEE Meetings in Toronto.


Job Market Paper

Quantifying the Heterogeneous Effects of Piracy on the Demand for Movies

The debate on digital piracy has attracted significant public attention. An accurate estimate of the loss due to piracy relies crucially on correctly identifying the substitution between pirated and paid consumption. Using a novel dataset of downloads collected from the BitTorrent network, I estimate a random-coefficient logit demand model of movies to quantify the effect of movie piracy on movie revenue from two distribution channels: box office and DVD sales. I allow piracy to have potentially positive effects on sales through word of mouth (WOM). Counterfactual results reveal that digital piracy has different effects on different channel of sales. When all piracy is removed, US box office revenue will only increase by 2.71 percent ($ 231 million) while US DVD sales will increase by 36 percent ($ 527 million) over 40 weeks in 2015. In addition, the effects on sales differ substantially by quality of pirated videos. On the one hand, high-quality piracy have stronger substitution effects on sales and are mainly responsible for the lost sales. On the other hand, positive WOM promotional effects on sales from low-quality piracy outweigh its negative substitution effects. Lastly, the positive WOM effects from all pirated consumption have moderate contributions to the industry revenue amounted to $ 68.7 million over 40 weeks in 2015.

Geographic Distribution of Global File-sharing activities for 2015 movies on BitTorrent. This globe present the geographic distribution of aggregate downloading activities for movies released in 2015. Data collected from IP address of downloaders of these movies from public BitTorrent trackers. Use mouse scroll or Up and Down arrow in keyboard to zoom in or out. This data visualization is built using Google's WebGL Globe Experiment.

Working Papers

Screeners are movie copies sent to critics and industry professionals for evaluation purposes. Sometimes screeners are leaked accidentally and made available to download on the Internet. This paper exploits the plausibly exogenous variation of file sharing/piracy activities caused by screener leaks of Oscar nominated movies to estimate the impact of movie piracy on box office revenue. Using information on leak dates collected from thepiratebay.org, I employ a difference-in-difference strategy to identify the causal effect of piracy on movie box office. The paper finds two interesting results. First, screener piracy caused by leaks reduces the box office revenue of the leaked movie in subsequent weeks by 29.8 % on average. However, the negative impact on total box office is to a large extent moderated by the late occurrence of leaks. Second, there are significant negative spillover effects on other movies: An additional contemporaneous leak lead to a 3 % decrease of box office revenue of other unleaked movies. Download PDF

Works in Progress




Ph.D. Economics, University of Western Ontario
Expected 2019
M.A. Economics, Simon Fraser University
B.A. Economics and Applied Psychology, Lanzhou University


Best PhD Student Paper Award, 1st Doctoral Workshop on the Economics of Digitization
Graduate Fellowship, University of Western Ontario
Graduate Fellowship, Simon Fraser University
First Class Scholarship, Lanzhou University

Teaching Experience

Instructor, King's College
2018 Winter
Instructor, University of Western Ontario
2017 Summer
Teaching Assistant, University of Western Ontario
Teaching Assistant, Simon Fraser University

Conference Presentation

Canadian Economic Association 52nd Annual Meetings, Montreal
16th International Industrial Organization Conferences (Rising Star Session), Indianapolis
2017 China Meeting of the Econometric Society, Wuhan
2017 Asian Meeting of the Econometric Society, Hong Kong
1st Doctoral Workshop on the Economics of Digitization, Munich
Tenth IDEI-TSE-IAST Conference on The Economics of Intellectual Property, Software and the Internet, Toulouse
Western Economics 50th Anniversary Conference (Poster Session), London, Ontario
Canadian Economic Association 50th Annual Meetings, Ottawa


Department of Economics
University of Western Ontario,
1151 Richmond St, London, ON
N6A 3K7

Email: zliu328@uwo.ca