Well, it's happened again. First it was Hostel Part II, which got absolutely clobbered at the box office with its inferior but certainly clearer than a camera in the theater version circulating readily online. Now Michael Moore's film Sicko has been leaked online, three weeks before release. And the pirates are going nuts, giddy with joy at the destruction of yet another independent film. Way to stick it to the man, pirates!
And while I'm forced to refrain from unleashing my genuine rage at these thieves who think they're in some way cyber revolutionaries (in truth, they're just cheap and have to justify their theft with a false sense of righteousness) I do have to unleash on somebody. The folks who suffer, but most of all deserve scorn for what's happening. The studios. Yes. The studios.
While the big boys spend tons of scratch frisking and wanding film critics who come in to see the film early, hoping this will in some way prevent piracy, films like this keep getting screwed. From the inside. That's right. Hostel 2, while disseminated by the pirates, was taken right off of a tape from Lionsgate by one of their employees. And the same is true of the Weinstein Company's release of Sicko. These aren't clandestine ninja theft operations with Mission Impossible wires suspending people from the ceilings or cameras in the projection booth. These guys are simply grabbing the tapes used to edit and perfect the film for release and just walking out with them. That's why they look so clean and are so prized by pirates.
So, let me get this straight: critics wearing jeans and a t-shirt practically get a cavity search when they want to watch the thing, but these guys are walking out of the building with boxes of tapes? Are you kidding me Harvey?
But here's the point that pirates tend (or like) to ignore. When they're stealing these films, rather than paying to see them, they're not just stealing from some big corporation. They're stealing from the artists who get a cut of the profits, especially when we're talking about indie films. Most indie films sell for a straight amount plus a portion of the box office sales. So when one of these doesn't sell enough tickets because people downloaded it instead, the people that made the movie get screwed, not the multi-billion dollar companies that release them.
So my question is this: What is going to happen when one of these artists finally gets around to suing the company whose lax security allowed their film to be released online? What if Michael Moore decides to sue the Weinstein Company for his financial loss, or loss of potential profits due to their negligent business practices? Because that's what this is: negligence on the part of the corporations. While there are specific thieves at fault (who deserve the jail time they'll get) the studios are spending far too much time and energy fighting piracy in the wrong places while refusing to police their own employees.
Thanks to a couple of unsavory characters, this is a bad summer for indies. I'd keep my eye out for the lawsuits. They may not have happened yet, but as the problem gets worse, so too will the legal problems for the companies at fault.
C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me
Austin-based Cargill, who not only loves but owns The Cutting Edge, writes on movies and DVDs five times a week.