Analysis Of Pirated Oscar Movies Shows They're Almost All Available… In HD (And Not From Screeners)

from the because-of-course dept

As we’ve mentioned in the past, every year for over a decade, Andy Baio scours the internet to see what Oscar-nominated movies have been put online (the answer is usually almost all of them). He started this back in 2004, when the MPAA laughably claimed that the very first “screener” copy of a nominated movie had been put online. Baio realized that it was hardly the first and there were many more. His latest analysis is up and it shows that, yet again, nearly all nominated movies are available. He’s actually kept the details of every year’s search in a big Google spreadsheet.

There are some interesting findings in the data, including that screener copies don’t matter much any more. For years, the MPAA — which still can’t get over its piracy obsession — insisted that screener leaks were a huge problem. Back in 2003 the MPAA wanted to ban screener DVDs entirely, which pissed off a bunch of filmmakers who feared that their films wouldn’t get voted on for the Oscars. Since then, they’ve focused on ridiculous proprietary systems that would only play on special DVD players — which just pissed off viewers. In the last few years, they’ve just focused on watermarked DVDs, which means that when the videos inevitably leak, they can be tracked back to whose copy leaked — like Ellen Degeneris’ copies last year.

But, as Baio notes, in the online release market, screener copies aren’t good enough:

But here?s the thing: screeners are stuck in the last decade. While we?re all streaming HD movies from iTunes or Netflix, the movie studios almost universally send screeners by mail on DVDs, which is forever stuck in low-resolution standard-definition quality. A small handful are sent in higher-definition Blu-ray.

This year, one Academy member received 68 screeners???59 on DVD and only eight on Blu-ray. Only 13% of screeners were sent to voters in HD quality.

As a result, virtually any HD source is more prestigious than a DVD screener. And with the shift to online distribution, there?s an increasing supply of possible HD sources to draw from before screeners are ever sent to voters.

And of course, the data also shows that cammed copies (someone sitting in a theater with a camera filming it) are virtually non-existent here. This is another issue that we’ve covered for years, with the MPAA famously making up numbers out of thin air concerning how big a “problem” it was. But, of course, the quality on those copies suck, and so people focus on HD, which they inevitably get.

Of this year?s 36 nominated films, 34 already leaked online in some form???everything except Song of the Sea and Glen Campbell: I?ll Be Me.

But only 33% of those were leaked from screeners, down from a high of 89% in 2003 and 2004.

As he notes, with the MPAA stupidly focused on screeners, they think they’re winning the battle, because here’s the percentage of actual screeners leaked:

So, I’m sure the content protection team at the MPAA are all excited about this. They’re vanquishing the screener piracy monster. But as Baio points out, that’s bullshit, because just as many films are leaking, but in HD quality from HD sources instead of screeners:
While this year’s figure is currently 89%, there’s a decent chance it will go higher before the Oscars happen. As Baio notes, 44% of the films this year are HD sources, not from screeners or from retail releases.

In other words: all this effort from the “content protection” team at the MPAA yields absolutely no benefit at all.

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Comments on “Analysis Of Pirated Oscar Movies Shows They're Almost All Available… In HD (And Not From Screeners)”

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46 Comments
Max (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s a very interesting sideways implication here, unrelated to the copyright aspects: why are critics, the people you want to see your movie in the best possible light, still getting DVDs instead of the best format possible – some form of HD?!? And the obvious answer is – because the quality of the movie comes through perfectly fine with a DVD, HD does not add all that much to that at all. And that is why I’m still perfectly happy with my considerable DVD collection (incidentally, all of it purchased) with more or less zero interest in Blu-ray – watching a spinning bone turn into a satellite I’m really, really not noticing how many pixels it is consisting of…

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It really all depends on the size of the screen you’re viewing on, how far away it is, and how good your eyes are.

In my experience (which will vary from person to person), at a viewing distance of 10-20 feet, I can’t discern the differences between anything above 60ppi.

Some data on various resolutions and minimum screen sizes (diagonal sizes of viewing area) to get >=60ppi (Assumes 16:9 monitor aspect ratio) :

720×480 (DVD) – 15″
1280×720 – 24.5″
1920×1080 (HD) – 36.8″
3840×2160 (UHD) – 73.6″

I certainly don’t get 4k, unless your TV takes up a wall. 1080p makes sense in some scenarios, but I usually go with 720p where available. My monitor is only 24″, so I can’t tell the difference between 1080p and 720p. Might as well save the bandwidth/space.

If you’re curious, here’s the equation I use:

sqrt( (vidHorRes * vidVertRes) / (0.425 * minPPI^2) ) = minReqMonitorSize

Alternatively, with a fixed monitor size (useful for determining what quality video to use):

0.425 * minPPI^2 * diagMonitorSize^2 = vidHorRes * vidVertRes

These equations assume a monitor aspect ratio of 16:9. If anyone wants them for a different aspect ratio (or a generalized form) ask for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Because you actually care…

Personally, I don’t mind watching 480p on my 72″ widescreen here… sure it’s not crystal clear, but I still enjoy a movie if it’s good.

I too have hundreds of DVDs still worth watching, and I don’t plan on replacing them all with bluray or HD streaming any time soon.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That fuzziness or stretching sometimes makes it hard to make out fine details. E.g., when a character looks at phone. With lower quality video, all that you’ll see is blurred letters.

Higher quality video won’t make a bad movie good, but it does enhance my enjoyment of a good movie.

If you already have a movie in DVD format, there’s no need to go out and buy a Blu-ray version. The increased quality is probably only worth ~$1-$3 (depending on how good the movie is), not the $20 you’ll pay for a replacement.

Anonymous Coward says:

why is it that when a movie is leaked to the ‘net, the MPAA are all over the place trying to grab those who downloaded it just so as to be able to get them into court, found guilty, sentenced with massive, incomprehensible fines and/or jail time, but there is no investigation into who leaked the screeners and how? why is it so much more important to do nothing to prevent the movies hitting the internet than actually having law suits against downloaders? isn’t it a bit like ‘bait and trap’? is that actually legal? how are they allowed to do this?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The entire 100% reason the MPAA goes after ‘pirates’ is because they can then take most of the fees they get from the big studios, claim they used them all up on ‘legal stuff’ and basically steal it all and ask for more the following year.
(pretty much 95% of the ‘legal fees’ goes right into the back pocket of the top 5 people in the MPAA)

Without the court cases they’d have so much money from the studios that the studios themselves would be asking for massive cuts.

Currently the MPAA is only using between 4% and 6% on anything other than legal cases.
(Yes it’s actually THAT large and amount the studios pay them)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I doubt it’s a case of them not investigating the leakers, they just don’t make that stuff public. They will most likely investigate internally and withdraw membership priceless, issue fines with non disclosure rules, etc.

A large part of their propaganda depends on the idea of good guys vs. bad guys, of the “poor artists vs the evil pirates”. Admission that not only is reality more complicated, but it’s own members are directly culpable would interfere with their attempts to keep their dated business model afloat.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m disappointed you got “insightful” for this. Seems you are entirely wrong.

What evidence or reason do you have to believe that the MPAA and studios aren’t ALSO trying to reduce the number of leaks at the source?

Here are some readily observable things indicating they are:
– security and gates at the studios
– they send movies to theaters under fake names, and use fake names in production

Here are some things one could easily imagine they also do:
– protect final edits of films with great care, making sure only specially authorized personnel have access
– pursue leakers to the full extent of the law
– keep final edit copies in locked rooms / locked down computers, encrypted
– tag, watermark, and ID existing copies to be able to trace leaks

Now, I’m not pro-MPAA, but you can’t just make shit up, like “why don’t they prevent movies hitting the net” and “there’s no investigation into who leaked the screeners”.

Even the sloppy Sony Pictures had the movies password protected, and is seeking the source of its leaks!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the difference though, and what gives off the ‘They don’t take leakers as serious as pirates’ vibe is the publicity difference between the two. When they go after pirates, they make the process very public, wanting everyone to see what happens to ‘pirates’.

If they’re going after leakers though, and I imagine that they are, they seem to be doing so in a manner designed to keep it quiet, and not draw attention to the leakers or what’s been leaked.

They’re willing and eager in fact to drag someone through the mud, publicly linking their name to ‘that dirty pirate’ for the rest of their life to ‘make an example of them’, yet they don’t seem to be doing that with leakers, and I imagine it’s for the reason given by PaulT above, they don’t want to show that they’ve got plenty of ‘dirty pirates’ in their organizations as well, but instead try to keep the (failed, but attempted) public image of ‘We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys’.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I wonder. Not living in LA, I can’t say. But don’t you suppose that, in the film industry and among its workers, there would be the common knowledge that:

“If you leak a film, the studio and the full weight of their legal team will come the fuck down on you like a ton of bricks.”

My bet is that the DO let that out, they DO make that threat known among the industry, because it is true, and because it behooves them. The thing is, neither of us is in that microcosm, nor reads Variety mag on a regular basis.

There’s no point in publicizing that industry insider threat to the wider public, since they don’t handle pre-release studio copies.

Reality bites (profile) says:

I call BS on the numbers, they are way higher than actual availbility

Seeing a movies name as a file title doesn’t make it so.
If you believe file names then John wick is available…. except it isn’t, and won’t be until the DVD is released and someone rips it.

Made up numbers help no one, the article would appear to be a stealth support doc for the mindless riaa and mpaa.
The only thing that would please the riaa and mpaa is if everyone in the world became their slaves and gave every cent to them, they would then continue to give the artist a pittance and the same abuse would continue.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: I call BS on the numbers, they are way higher than actual availbility

“John wick is available…. except it isn’t, and won’t be until the DVD is released and someone rips it.”

So, don’t believe the article, believe my uncited assertion?

Funny how you single out a movie that’s not Oscar nominated on a story specifically about those movies, though…

Anonymous Coward says:

But you're wrong

*In other words: all this effort from the “content protection” team at the MPAA yields absolutely no benefit at all.*

Then you are not seeing this in the right perspective.

There are benefits to the MPAA/movie studios, who has a convenient faceless entity (“pirates”) to blame for all their troubles.

There are benefits to the content protection industry, both technology providers/owners and (especially) lawyers.

There are benefits vis-a-vis the political establishment, since lobbyist occasionally come bearing gift$$ and all kinds of additional content provider friendly laws may blend in under the heading of the pirate threat to American businesses.

There are benefits to the studios, since ‘protection’ is a nice label for revenue needing to disappear Hollywood Accounting style.

There are benefits to the MPAA in line with the Shirky Principle: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

So what do you mean ‘no benefits’?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But you're wrong

There are benefits in the sense that their true intent is to stop legitimate content distribution mediums like Youtube by using piracy as an excuse to make things more expensive for those that distribute independent content that the MPAA/RIAA don’t get paid for. For instance stopping Megaupload wasn’t about stopping infringement it was about stopping competition and it benefited the RIAA/MPAA.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s like the RIAA/MPAA claiming that the reason infringing CD, DVD, audio cassette and video tape copying is down is because they have been cracking down on infringement when the true reason is that everyone has simply migrated to much more efficient means of copying like the Internet, MP3 player and USB and hard drive file transfers. It’s not that cracking down on infringement helped slow or stop CD, DVD, audio cassette, and video tape piracy it’s that people have migrated away from those mediums as a means of obtaining their content.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What’s even funnier is watching people like you, who simply cannot refrain from watching the crap Hollywood puts out, to the point where you absolutely must have it, projecting that same obsession onto everyone else.

Just because you can’t live without the garbage they push out, doesn’t mean the rest of us share your obsession.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And I could claim that you’re addicted to arson. See, I can make baseless accusations without evidence too.

Once more, you’re projecting your actions onto others.

I couldn’t care less about what crap they put out, I don’t watch it, rent it, go to the movies to see it, or pirate it.

Despite your baseless claims to the contrary, I could not care less what new rubbish they throw out there, I have better things to spend my time and money on.

The funny thing is, when it comes down to it, I, and others like me, are actually worse than pirates, at least as far as Hollywood’s profits go. A pirate? They do care what new movies are coming out. They do watch them, legally and otherwise. They talk about them to others who might be interested in movies, and buy a fair amount, even if it’s not as many as they download.

People like me? We don’t care what movies are out there. We don’t watch them, talk about them, or buy them. To us, they might as well not even exist, and they could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t be any sort of real loss to us.

It would be better for Hollywood if I was a pirate, because a pirate cares what they put out, I don’t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Are you really that obsessed with the rot Hollywood throws out that it is just inconceivable to you that someone else could do without?

Are you that fixated on the crap they shovel out that the idea that other people simply do not care what new rubbish they make simply flies right over your head?

Or is it that you simply have no reasonable defense for what they do on a regular basis, actions supposedly to ‘combat piracy’ yet ending up affecting everyone but pirates, that you flat out have to go with the ad hom/strawman of ‘You disagree with me, therefor you must be a criminal’?

In any case, your baseless assertions aside, I can assure you, despite your horrendously flawed assumptions to the contrary, there are indeed plenty of people for whom Hollywood may as well not exist, and for whom, if it did indeed die off tomorrow, would not be affected in the slightest, other than perhaps having a hearty laugh. Despite your wishful thinking and claims otherwise, I happen to be one of them.

But hey, you can keep believing whatever you want if it really makes you feel better. You’ll still be wrong, but just like someone believing that I’m a king wouldn’t make me royalty, someone believing that I absolutely must share their obsession with crap films, to the extent that I spend my time and energy pirating them, does not change the fact that I couldn’t care less about what they toss out, and certainly not enough to be bothered pirating said crap.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Are you really that obsessed with the rot Hollywood throws out that it is just inconceivable to you that someone else could do without?”

I reckon he must be. Personally, I’ve already spent the equivalent of $2000 for the year on various film and music related projects (pre-booked film festivals in 2 countries, concerts in 3 countries, funding new Blu Ray releases and a film book a friend is working on). Almost none of it major studio or major label related.

The read this obsessed asshole attacking me as a pirate because he literally cannot conceive of someone questioning corporate behaviour without “stealing” from them is somewhere between hilarious and pathetic. But a sad reflection of the fantasy world they have to inhabit to pretend they’re not idiots.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

We also talk about how an iPhone app ecosystem is too closed, and subject to the whims of Apple.

We also talk about how Blackberry is a shrinking ecosystem, and the CEO is nuts to say there should be a law to force developers to make apps for it.

Does that mean we must also steal iPhones and Blackberries?

Does talking about some business challenge forcibly mean you must steal that product? Then I’m gonna need a ski mask and a gun, cuz I’m woefully behind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some people

In some countries the very act of watching a Hollywood movie can get you thrown in jail or killed.The very fact that these people can watch pirated TV programs and blockbuster movies breaks up the tedium of marching up and down the parade square praising Great Leader for taking a successful dump, eating bad food-when bad food is even available and the constant fear that the secret police will come to take you away.

John85851 (profile) says:

Does picture quality matter?

On a related note, does the movie industry think picture quality matters or not? Sony (and others) push their curved 4K TV’s and super-hi-def blu-ray players for the home market, yet the MPAA still thinks it’s okay to send DVD’s to their screeners? Why not send them 4K TV’s so they get the best viewing experience also?

And if the picture quality doesn’t matter, then that would explain the MPAA’s need to go after cam-corders: if people see the story, even at a crappy resolution, then they won’t go see the IMAX version or buy the blu-ray.

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