While fans were lining up for midnight showings of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” last week, pic pirates had already gone to the dark side, posting a digital copy of the film via a BitTorrent file-sharing web site.
Illegal DVD copies have already shown up on the street.
MPAA topper Dan Glickman quickly issued a statement waving both a stick (“You can click, but you can’t hide.”) and a carrot. (“There are lots of ways to legally download our products.”)
But the appearance on the Web of a work print, complete with timecode, pointed to one of the industry’s dirty little secrets: Many, maybe even most, pirated films are leaked by insiders at the studios and distributors.
Some pirated copies are camcorded off a projection screen, but the timecode on the “Sith” copy is something that’s never seen on release prints.
That points to an insider somewhere along the chain.
There’s been a lot of media attention focused on thefts at post-production houses, but nowadays studios avoid sending all the reels of a movie to any single post house.
The people that do have the whole film are at studios and distribs, and that fact hasn’t been lost on the MPAA’s member studios.
Over the last two years, they’ve quietly installed internal measures aimed at shifting the focus away from lock-and-key security and toward high-tech measures, including digital watermarks that help trace leaks.
An MPAA spokesman says the pirated copy of on BitTorrent may have enough watermarking information to reveal the source of the leak.
Prosecuting any culprits nabbed would be up to Fox and Lucasfilm.
In the meantime, the BitTorrent copy will have been copied thousands of times.