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Studios use iTunes to fight screener piracy

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Friday, January 28, 2011
News Categories: iTunes

Several Hollywood studios are using iTunes as a way to combat piracy stemming from stolen screener copies of award-worthy films, according to the Los Angeles Times. Fox Searchlight was the first studio to have nearly 100,000 Screen Actors Guild voters view new films such as Black Swan through a free download from the iTunes Store, according to the report, and other studios such as Paramount and Focus Features did the same. In each case, the downloads were set to expire 24 hours after being viewed—the same limitation Apple uses for its movie rentals in the U.S.—and were not available to the public. In the past, studios have sent out thousands of screener DVDs to those who vote on awards such as the Golden Globes and Oscars, and had seen many of them stolen or otherwise copied, ripped, and uploaded to file sharing sites. As the report notes, however, digital screeners may take time to replace physical copies as some studios are hesitant to annoy voters by making them watch films on a computer or mobile device. “I don’t know how thrilled filmmakers would be to have their films seen on a laptop instead of a flat-screen TV,” said David Kaplan, a senior vice president of anti-piracy at Warner Bros., whose movie Inception is up for an Oscar for best picture.

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“I don’t know how thrilled filmmakers would be to have their films seen on a laptop instead of a flat-screen TV,” said David Kaplan, a senior vice president of anti-piracy at Warner Bros.

It’s called Apple TV, dude.

Posted by BeyondtheTech on January 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM (PDT)


Either Apple TV or a HDMI cable and a laptop. I am not sure this will do anything to avoid piracy, as I got a very nice 720p rip from the iTunes screener of the Black Swan. Hope more of those come out!

Posted by Cask on January 28, 2011 at 2:06 PM (PDT)


I’m behind @BeyondtheTech and Cask - I’m not sure how much of an inconvenience it would be… a simple HDMI cable would do the trick, or even an S-Video cable and some nice speakers!

Posted by Luci on January 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM (PDT)


Airplay anyone?

Posted by ImperfectLink on January 28, 2011 at 3:48 PM (PDT)


“I don’t know how thrilled filmmakers would be to have their films seen on a laptop instead of a flat-screen TV,” said David Kaplan, a senior vice president of anti-piracy at Warner Bros.

Uhh…lot of screeners being sent out these days are at super crappy res.  Approx. VHS quality..maybe on occasion DVD quality.  Play that video on a laptop screen, it may look ok…plya it on a large flatscreen, it’s gonna look even worse.

Posted by Trooth on January 28, 2011 at 11:11 PM (PDT)


It’s a good alternative, and FYI, they still sent us the DVDs.
So, I can also get it on my iPad while out and about. Funny how all you guys do is think about how you can steal someone’s work. Sad actually.
It’s frustrating to try and make money in the music and film industries with so many children feeling they are entitled to it for free. I only hope someday you either grow up, or your work is given out for free and you then grasp how childish you are.
These industries are not perfect, and they do need to get with the times, but that does not entitle you to theft.

Posted by Sb on January 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM (PDT)


@6: Project much, sb? *One* person mentioned getting a screener rip, and nobody said anything about feeling entitled, but 77% of your reply was self-righteous finger waving and name calling. Who exactly needs to grow up?

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 29, 2011 at 3:25 PM (PDT)


@ the monkey.

Project, no. Exaggerated, maybe. It’s a topic that gets me angry. Sorry you can’t understand that, but I don’t care.
You are the most self-righteous human on this site. You sound a little jealous actually.

Posted by Sb on January 29, 2011 at 7:40 PM (PDT)


For me the good thing about this story is that there is a hint that the film industry supports or at least accepts iTunes and associated hardware as relevant to the film industry.

Posted by Cyberman in nr Heathrow, London on January 30, 2011 at 10:09 AM (PDT)


Here’s the deal, and I agree with #9.
We currently get screeners four ways:
Physical DVD
Viewings on the studio lots
Viewings at local theaters
Downloads on iTunes

The iTunes method may seem lame or stupid to some, but remember, these screenings start in the fall and go through the winter - HOLIDAY - months. For someone on location, or on vacation, the iTunes store suddenly makes more sense. Is it as fun as going to the studio? Is it as hi-res as a DVD? No to both. But it’s a good alternative IMHO.
Don’t forget how the iPod was first viewed. Give it time. The exec’s running these entertainment entities are slow to react. Hopefully not so slow as to destroy what’s left of them.
And before we get a “they’re evil and deserve to fail” reply, remember, there’s lots of great, hard working people there. Forget the exec’s and remember that please.

Posted by Sb on January 30, 2011 at 3:27 PM (PDT)


I think this is a cool idea.
Sb do you work in the movie industry? I agree with everything you’re saying. I’m a songwriter the music biz and yeah…no need for me explain how bad the pirating and the mindset about it is. smh. Hoping it’ll get better someway soon.

Posted by Benjamin-E on January 30, 2011 at 10:55 PM (PDT)


If your talking about theft, start there.

A film ticket in 1998 (Blade) cost £4.30, so by 2010 should (with compound inflation) cost around £5.40, but instead costs £8. Now with the current 3D fad, films are £10 a ticket and unwatchable.
The cinema industry has lost my custom. Maybe you can afford to go to the pictures with a family of four on Tom Cruise’s salary, but not mine.
I’ve been priced out of my favourite hobby, cinema.

Someone growing up now, instead of the seventies & eighties as I did, would simple not have the income to be a cinema buff.

Calling piracy theft is an outright lie, based on the flawed assumption that if someone couldn’t get something for free, they’d HAVE to buy it. Which is nonsense. They just go without and you STILL wouldn’t sell the film at the price you’re asking. It’s not complicated. Putting prices up in a recession is not a vote winner.

Posted by @6 Have you seen cinema ticket prices? on January 31, 2011 at 2:54 AM (PDT)


“Calling piracy theft is an outright lie, based on the flawed assumption that if someone couldn’t get something for free, they’d HAVE to buy it. Which is nonsense. They just go without and you STILL wouldn’t sell the film at the price you’re asking.”

This is the ABSOLUTE truth. Making things cheaper = more sales. You only have to look at the sale EA had on iTunes over the Xmas period and the way the apps on sale were in the top 10 paid apps to see that. Some things are just TOO EXPENSIVE, and in a recession people just can’t afford it. And sometimes it’s not even down to a recession - not everyone has super-high income (me included), so choose what they buy/do more carefully. Simple as.

Posted by Nigel on January 31, 2011 at 1:13 PM (PDT)



Benjamin, myself, I’m in music.  My wife, in films.
I too hope it will get better, but seeing the replies from #s 12 & 13, and undoubtedly others to come (you know who you are) it’s not very promising.

Again with the “I get to decide what’s too much money so it’s OK to steal it” mantra.  Well kids, let’s have a look at the prices of everything.  You guys steal food?  Cars?  What’s not on your list of justified theft?  I want to see this list!
I also pray you aren’t parents or otherwise in charge of raising children…

Posted by sb on January 31, 2011 at 1:57 PM (PDT)


@12/13 - “Calling piracy theft is an outright lie”. Are you kidding me? Piracy IS theft…period. You are taking something that you did not pay for and does not belong to you. Maybe the “downloader” is somehow less of a thief than the “uploader”, but both sides are stealing in some way. Look at the more tangible side of petty music crime. Let’s say an actual music CD. If you walk up to a guy on the street that you know gives away CD’s that he has stolen from Best Buy, and you take one of these CD’s that he has made available to you…again, knowing that this whole process is illegal…you are receiving stolen property. A crime. Period. In the digital case, it is a little more convoluted. But it all boils down to the fact that you knowingly took something that you did not pay for.

Now don’t get me wrong. I DO feel that movie and music studios ARE ripping people (and artists) off. They are (especially the movie studios) grossly overcharging for their wares. But that does not make stealing their products any less of a crime. The way to fight is to stop going to the movie. Stop buying the DVD’s. Stop justifying their practices by lining up at the box office. But do not steal. That allows them to use the law to prove they are right. “We have to charge what we do BECAUSE people are stealing from us left and right.”, will become the mantra. Music has already seen it full force.

Posted by Mitch on February 1, 2011 at 11:14 AM (PDT)


It is a really unfortunate thing that is happening with films, but just like music there is really no control over it anymore. Is there something that itunes and other companies can do to crack down on people who think its okay to steal it?

Posted by on February 1, 2011 at 3:05 PM (PDT)



No, their parents already failed them.

Posted by sb on February 1, 2011 at 3:11 PM (PDT)


Once again people misconstrue my point.

OK, maybe piracy IS theft. But if these things were CHEAPER people wouldn’t have to steal them in the first place because they are more affordable. As I mentioned in my previous post, EA had a sale over Christmas and sold A LOT MORE of their games as a result. Not rocket science, is it?? Lower prices, increased sales. Everybody wins.

As another example, if Apple DO go into the subscription market, you can bet it will be a sure-fire success ‘cos for a reasonable cost (the price of a single album a month, most likely) they can access ALL new material legally, and maybe even listen to stuff that they would NEVER have listened to before ‘cos it would have cost them too much money to do so. They then may decide to buy the music/albums they like, go and see the artist(s) live, buy merchandise etc. There IS a positive knock-on effect of subscription services, as long as those subscription services aren’t overpriced.

If a service like Spotify can be successful, then I don’t see how the world’s biggest digital music retailer is going to fail…

Posted by Nigel on February 3, 2011 at 1:50 PM (PDT)

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