For long-time observers of video piracy, the traditional end of the year awards season provides a very interesting peek into the interplay between the movie industry and the file-sharing scene. Even as studio executives continue to push onerous DRM schemes on end users, the reality is that most commercial films find their way online well prior to their official DVD release date. Somewhere along the chain of production, film industry insiders get their hands on high quality digital copies of Hollywood’s movies and start to share them, and as we all know, it only takes one copy to provide the source for millions of downloads. Studio spokespeople rarely draw attention to this fact, as it tends to undermine their constant pleas about the need for consumer level DRM, when in fact almost all mass online infringement completely bypasses these systems.
Even worse for the studios is the annual dynamic by which the “screener” copies that are sent around to Oscar voters too lazy to actually see movies in theaters, very rapidly end up online as well. Despite a number of efforts by the Motion Picture Academy to stop theseembarrassing leaks, they continue year after year, and highlight the extent to which even some of the most well-connected film industry members have been exposed as file-sharers.
I will be tracking how quickly the Oscar contenders show up online, and in what formats over the next few months. But to start things off, I’ve tabulated the release history of some of the likely Oscar films, at least as chosen by the Golden Globes. This should provide us with a good baseline for observing how things develop over the next few weeks as the Oscar race heats up and the nominations are announced. Please let me now if I’ve missed anything so far.