Universal Pictures is getting a bizarre Internet boost for “American Pie 2,” the sequel to its 1999 hit film, which bows in theaters next weekend.
That’s because the studio, as well as the entire entertainment industry, is watching as copies of what appears to be the unreleased teen comedy are being downloaded daily for free at unprecedented rates worldwide by the very audience U is hoping to attract.
The catch? The film is not really the Universal film — though that is being pirated, too, on a much lesser scale — but in fact a French-lingo porn film with stills from the “Pie 2” trailer interspersed.
The Web-heisted version of “Pie 2” has drawn significant attention from mainstream and Internet media over the past few days, but none apparently took the trouble to actually view the download.
The adult film, which “borrows” the name of the soon-to-be-released sequel, first appeared last week as a compressed DivX file on Hotline, a Napster-like service from Hotline Communications, which enables Netizens to swap digital music, movie and other files.
While Hotline said its software is intended to allow individuals to use the Internet for whatever purpose they deem necessary, the idea was not to steal anyone’s intellectual property.
“It’s something we’ve been aware of,” Hotline prexy and CEO Jack Kay told Daily Variety. “But we are, in this particular circumstance, powerless to stop it. Our tool was created for the perfectly legitimate use of people building their own Internet communities.”
What is making matters worse is that the one copy of the adult film that appeared on Hotline has now made its way to dozens of public Web sites, as well as countless underground Internet file-swapping servers, similar to word-of-mouth bazaars of copyrighted material, meaning that the film is available to anyone who wants it around the world.
While the porn film may not be a big issue for Universal, it’s that lone copy of the real film floating around on the Web and currently accessible to only a select few hackers that could hurt the studio.
“American Pie 2” is rated R, meaning that teens who watched the first hit pic, which generated over $100 million at the B.O., aren’t able to buy tickets to see the sequel in theaters. Instead, those viewers, as well as kids overseas who must wait for the film to reach their territories in the fall, could easily head to the Internet to download the film.
According to several network security providers, Universal could purge the copy of the real film from computer servers over the next several days, eliminating the distribution of the film over the Web. However, by next week, stopping the spread of the film will be impossible, should it become public.
Courts may have forced the shutdown of Napster’s central server, disconnecting users from each other, and, ultimately, from a cache of millions of music tracks, but new services from Grokster, Gnutella and Kazaa are set up with no single computer server, allowing users to download directly from other users.
To shut these services down would require each user to be taken off line individually. In the case of Hotline, that would mean threatening three million-plus users with legal action to close their hard drives off to others, or having the Internet Service Providers clamp down on the culprits, which they are not legally compelled to do.
Kay said he does not believe that the availability of the film on the Internet is going to hurt ticket sales. The buzz is only expected to have helped it. The same can be said for Hotline.
Long download time
For one thing, the download takes at least about two hours for those with a high-speed connection.
“The notion that people are going to sit in front of their PCs and look at bootleg copies of movies, it’s just dumb,” he said. “The buzz is going to do more for ticket sales than what has been lost.”