X marks the spot

Illegal downloading was taken to a new level this week when a virtually complete DVD-quality copy of one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters was leaked in its entirety over the internet and downloaded over 100,000 times before the involvement of the FBI.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the latest in 20th Century Fox’s hugely successful X-Men Franchise and, as well as being touted as one of the year’s biggest movies, is a very important release for Fox, who have not had a major summer hit for the last few years and are banking on the success of Wolverine to fund other projects.

The leak of the entire movie rather than individual scenes or a script is pretty much unprecedented. The movie is protected by Copyright, which will cover the movie itself, its script and it’s soundtrack.

Anyone copying the file and passing it on will infringe copyright and could be liable for damages or even a fine or custodial sentence.

The UK has only seen a few copyright actions being brought by major studios in this kind of case, but this is a very serious matter for Fox, who are afraid that much of the core audience for the movie will now not pay to see it, either because they have read a negative review of the leaked copy (which apparently is missing 15 minutes of footage and has incomplete special effects and music) or because they’ve simply already watched it. This may mean that action being taken against copiers may be more likely in this case.

Many major movies are now released on the same day worldwide to avoid the spread of illegal copies, so this is a major blow for Fox, who could potentially lose millions at the box office as a result of the leak.

The FBI is already working on tracing the source of the leak and are pushing for a criminal sentence, which is believed to be a special effects company.

This will probably lead to even more scrutiny of the average movie-goer, as many cinema chains have already begun searching bags for recording equipment on a regular basis.

If there are copies in the UK, then anyone in possession is at risk. More importantly, this is the nightmare scenario which the anti-piracy advertisements have warned about for some time.

It just goes to show, however, that security in the Movie industry is still perhaps not as tight as the studios would like it to be.”

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