Shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment released “The Interview” on digital services Dec. 24, high-quality copies of the movie turned up on multiple piracy sites — and in less than 24 hours, it had already been downloaded by about 900,000 torrent users worldwide.
On Wednesday, the studio announced the launch of “The Interview” on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own website, SeetheInterview.com, for $5.99 rental or $14.99 purchase. That came ahead of Sony’s planned U.S. theatrical release of the film to more than 300 independent theaters on Christmas Day.
However, Sony’s digital release of the movie is currently available only in the U.S. As such, it’s unsurprising that “The Interview” was quickly pirated, particularly given worldwide interest in the movie after the devastating hack on SPE and allegations by U.S. government that North Korea was responsible for the attack.
Poached copies of “The Interview” had been downloaded by 904,237 clients worldwide as of about 4 p.m. ET Thursday after being uploaded less than 24 hours earlier to file-sharing services, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio. Of those, 28% were in the U.S. — representing the country with the largest base of pirates — where the film is legally available through digital services.
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[UPDATE, Dec. 26, 9 a.m. PT: Legitimate copies of the movie had been downloaded at least 1.7 million times as of approximately 6 a.m. ET Friday, according to Excipio. That, by the way, included four clients based in North Korea, the firm found.]
The surge in piracy for “The Interview” comes even after the Pirate Bay, the world’s best-known piracy outfit, was shut down in Sweden by law-enforcement officials in a raid confiscating its servers and equipment Dec. 9.
The cyber-terrorists who attacked Sony stole copies of DVD screeners of four unreleased movies — including the studio’s “Annie” holiday release — and uploaded them to pirate sites, along with “Fury,” the war pic starring Brad Pitt. But until this week, legitimate copies of “The Interview” had not surfaced on pirate sites.
“The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a geopolitical satire centering on two American TV journalists enlisted by the CIA to kill North Korea’s leader. Major U.S. theater chains dropped plans to show the film after hackers threatened terrorist attacks, leading Sony to previously pull all distribution. Then, earlier this week, Sony reversed course with the digital-video partnerships and a limited theatrical run.
For Sony’s legal digital distribution of “The Interview,” no figures are available for rentals and purchases of the movie at this point. However, the film is listed as the No. 1 title in the Google Play store and YouTube’s movies section as of Thursday.