Hollywood Doesn't Understand Where Pirated Movies Come From

Cory Doctorow has a piece in The Guardian explaining why it's awfully dumb for a theatre to confiscate mobile phones at a preview screening: Nobody's pirating movies with a mobile phone, and real leaks come from inside the industry.

The piece goes more in depth about the security risks in having a mobile phone confiscated by anonymous theatre cops, and Doctorow seems upset that nobody would tell him exactly what happens to these phones during the movie. I'm less concerned; I think the reason nobody knows what happens is that nobody cares, and there's probably never been an instance of data theft in that situation. But it is definitely a bad sign for the film industry that anybody anywhere thinks that's where leaks come from.

As any diligent pirate knows, there are levels of illegally-obtained films that vary wildly in quality, and at any reputable Bittorrent site, they're clearly labelled (or at least noted in the comments). The first type that usually appears is the camcorder version, which is almost always a complete waste of time. "Cams," as they're called, are often shot from corners of the theatre to avoid detection, and sound quality is praised if dialogue even the least bit understandable. Most pirates will skip this garbage and wait for a more legit copy, so it's not worth getting worked up about people with camcorders. Next up, the last thing to leak before the actual DVD release of the movie, is the one that's actually worth stealing: The screener.

Screeners are preview DVDs sent out to critics and others in the industry, and that's where nearly all of the leaks happen. I repeat: Leaks come from inside the industry. So maybe the MPAA should stop whining and figure out a more secure DRM system, some kind of watermark, or just a way of tracking which copy gets leaked instead of taking silly action like confiscating mobile phones. [The Guardian]