EnlargeAFP via Getty Images
reader comments 44
Share this story
A legal flap between Warner Bros. and a Hollywood talent agency once again shows that Hollywood insiders are leaking pre-release movies to BitTorrent file-sharing sites.
The latest evidence is spelled out in a copyright infringement lawsuit (PDF) brought this week by Warner Bros. against talent agency Innovative Artists.
The studio claims Innovative Artists effectively set up its own pirate site of DVD screeners and other movie rips on a shared Google drive folder. This, according to the lawsuit, led to watermarked screener copies of Creed and Heart of the Sea being uploaded to file-sharing sites.
“Because the screeners were ‘watermarked’—embedded with markers that identified their intended recipients—Plaintiff traced the copies to screeners that Plaintiff had sent to an Innovative Artists client, in care of the agency,” according to the lawsuit.
Studios dole out so-called Oscar screeners—often pre-release material in the DVD format—to select members of the entertainment industry for award screening purposes. As the suit outlines:
Instead of forwarding the screeners directly to its client, Innovative Artists used illegal ripping software to bypass the technical measures that prevent access to and copying of the content on DVDs. Innovative Artists then copied the movies to its digital distribution platform, where those copies became available for immediate downloading and streaming along with infringing copies of many other copyrighted movies.
Bolstering the position that Hollywood insiders are behind the leaking of pre-release material, the suit comes three weeks after an employee working for a studio the authorities declined to disclose was fined $1.2 million and handed eight months of home confinement for leaking The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie days ahead of their US release.
Meanwhile, the Warner Bros. suit seeks as much as $150,000 per infringement. The talent agency’s response, while apologetic, confirms that file-sharing of pre-release material runs rampant in Hollywood circles. “Warner Bros. is well aware, from its past experience with other industry entities, the sharing of award screeners is commonplace within the Hollywood community,” Innovative Artists said in its response.