The Oscars Ends DVD Screeners For Reasons Other Than Piracy, Which Will Of Course Continue

from the screenshot dept

Oscars DVD screeners, the DVDs that get sent out to judges that are up for an award, have been an on again, off again topic for years at Techdirt. These screeners were at one time a very prevalent source for pirated films that showed up on the internet. There was once some irony in the MPAA and film industry insisting that piracy could be solved by tech companies if only they would nerd hard enough, yet here are these screeners going out the doors that supposedly were secure and turned out not to be. It was all bad enough that the MPAA wanted to ban screeners entirely, which pissed off filmmakers enough that the lobbying group ended up having to back down.

It turns out that technology actually could solve the film industry’s screener DVD piracy problem. With better quality film rips showing up on pirate sites, ripping relatively low-res DVDs became not a thing. Perhaps because of that, alongside the stated desire to be more sustainable, there will be no more Oscars DVD screeners moving forward.

This year, plenty of discs will be shipped too but, after the upcoming Oscars ceremony, that will be a thing of the past. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that physical screeners will no longer be allowed in 2021.

“[T]he 93rd Awards season will be the final year DVD screeners will be allowed to be distributed; these mailings will be discontinued starting in 2021 for the 94th Academy Awards,” the Academy writes. Whether piracy was considered as a factor at all remains a guess. Some insiders believe that digital screeners are easier to protect and therefore more secure, but that is up for debate.

If it’s a debate, it’s not much of one. Already dedicated pirate groups have indicated that there are plenty of opportunities to leak digital screeners and that they have already been successful in ripping them. In other words, the screener DVDs may end, but the pirating will continue.

“We had access to digital screeners and they are indeed easy to leak. The DRM on it is a joke. We had an account last year with three screeners on it and they were pretty much MP4 ready to encode,” the EVO team informed us at the time.

Whether streaming or physical screeners are more secure ultimately depends on the type of protection measures that are implemented for each. The safest conclusion, for now, is that piracy will likely remain a problem no matter what the distribution platform is.

As it seems will always be the case. I’m somewhat encouraged that the announcement of the end of Oscars screener DVDs didn’t carry with it complaints about piracy. Perhaps the industry is in some small way learning to live with piracy rather than fighting it at every turn.

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Comments on “The Oscars Ends DVD Screeners For Reasons Other Than Piracy, Which Will Of Course Continue”

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26 Comments
untrusted says:

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this has less to do with privacy and looks to be a money saving thing from them. The cost associated with dvd screeners and all the shenanigans with trying to keep it secure looks like it has seen its day. From now on there will either be nothing or it will be distributed via a secure account method. Either way, they think it will be more secure against the pirates.

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PaulT (profile) says:

"The safest conclusion, for now, is that piracy will likely remain a problem no matter what the distribution platform is."

Might I suggest the platform of "allow people to legally obtain a copy". If you’re claiming that your movie is worthy of consideration among the best of the year while simultaneously blocking people from watching it legally, it should be obvious why the incentive to pirate is there.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"If you’re claiming that your movie is worthy of consideration among the best of the year while simultaneously blocking people from watching it legally…"

Emphasis mine…because judging by the amount of shenanigans going around about using DMCA’s against online critics in no few cases it’s pretty obvious that the whole point is to sandbag the audience with one massive release to sell as many seats as possible under circumstances controlled enough to prevent anyone from leaking just how bad and overhyped the movie is. Nevermind that this doesn’t usually work…

By now I’m convinced the copyright cult blocks access to media even when it obviously hurts their margins simply because they now consider it blasphemy to do things the other way and can’t bend their heads around the concept of NOT blocking access.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"it’s pretty obvious that the whole point is to sandbag the audience with one massive release to sell as many seats as possible under circumstances controlled enough to prevent anyone from leaking just how bad and overhyped the movie is"

Not really. The "awards season" is just a mess because the studios want to capitalise on the bump that nominees and winners get around Oscar time. So, rather than given them a proper wide release, they give the films small releases to generate a bit of buzz/qualify the film for the Oscars, then ramp up the release nearer Oscar time in the hope they’ve been nominated. During this time, because the films are talked about, there’s demand for them and since the supply has been artificially restricted for marketing purposes they will get pirated.

There is always a question as to whether the films that get picked are mediocre "Oscar bait" (such as last year’s winner Green Book) or genuinely excellent movies (such as this year’s winner Parasite), but this release pattern applies to them all.

This is also another reason why the studios are so scared of Netflix. They have distributed a number of Oscar nominees and winners over the last few years, and haven’t had to resort to such trickery – they just have to make sure the films are streaming when the nominations come in, how long they were out for before that doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as it does theatrically.

nerdrage (profile) says:

Re: nope

Nope. Look at this list. Netflix’s Extraction is the most pirated movie. Anyone in the world can get access to that movie by subscribing for a very reasonable fee.

https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-most-pirated-movies-of-the-week-on-bittorrent-05-04-20/

The only countries that don’t have Netflix are China (because of the Chinese government, not Netflix) and a few other basket cases like Syria and North Korea. I doubt access to the latest movies for cheap is their most pressing concern.

So that ends all arguments that piracy is caused by lack of access or prices being too high. Piracy is caused by people who want something for nothing.

But the question of whether piracy matters is different. Piracy clearly doesn’t matter because it’s not stopping Netflix from making Extraction 2.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DVDs? I have.

Different people had different views regarding time/effort/money.

My vehicle still has only an audio CD player. I burn my own audio CD’s (legally of course).

My PC’s still have DVD-RW units. My backup system is to DVD. Yes it is somewhat slow, however, it is relatively private. I prefer to avoid the cloud. Encrypted backups on the cloud are simply a decryption training exercise for various nefarious groups with Internet access.

Remember too, encryption which is difficult/impossible to break today is easier tomorrow and easy in the "too near future". Any cloud stored encrypted file will still be available in the "too near future" to Big Data/Big Government. Also remember, have care in backups, what is lawful today may be "politically incorrect" in the near future and may be unlawful shortly after that. That encrypted backup in the cloud/"Big Data"/"Big Government" may become a criminal indictment waiting to happen.

Eventually bit-rot will probably make the DVD’s go bad. However, by that time, the files will likely be of little use. Measured by my own standard of how frequently I need to access a DVD backup, I’m OK using DVD’s

DVD’s and CD-R disks are cheap. Also, they are a size which is easy to physically handle. The smaller the storage unit, the more can be packed into a space. However, the smaller the unit, the harder it is to label the unit for organized storage. There is an approximate best size for handling, labeling and organization.

DVD’s and CD-R disks may no be optimal, but are "good enough".

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: DVDs? I have.

My backup system is to DVD. Yes it is somewhat slow, however, it is relatively private. … Encrypted backups on the cloud are simply a decryption training exercise

You might be overestimating how easy it is to decrypt stuff. Then again, "the cloud" has shown us that if there’s an opportunity to do a half-assed job (at encryption or whatever else), some company will do it even more incompetently than most of us could imagine.

A huge benefit of optical media is that it’s write-once. Some malware isn’t going to come along and obliterate hundreds of discs, as it could do the next time someone connects their "backup hard drive". At worse, malware could destroy discs inserted while it’s present.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: DVDs? I have.

"DVD’s and CD-R disks may no be optimal, but are "good enough"."

Well, with the cost of storage being roughly equal but a hard drive being by far more flexible – not to mention a lot faster in both writing and reading…DVD’s do come out short which is why that standard is naturally being phased out like the old VCR cassettes back in the day.

As SSD’s keep becoming cheaper there’s even less motivation to use DVD’s for anything other than as novelty coasters. A sad end for my spindles of burned data but at least I’m covered if i ever need to host a 200-person drinking party…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Also, random expiry dates, etc. Nothing worse than going to finish a movie you had to interrupt last week only to find it’s not on there any more.

Although, I have a fairly obscure taste in movies and have been used to going out of my way to find what I want to watch since well before Blockbuster took over the physical market.

I love the convenience of streaming, but it’s only good for "I will watch whatever is on the services I have", and not "I want to watch title X".

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

…which also tends to remove those unskippable trailers, FBI warnings, more unskippable trailers, physician’s warnings, yet a few more unskippable trailers, prequels, self-congratulatory pats on the back, and half a dozen splash screens of companies tangentially involved in the making of the movie.

Every now and then i still remember that graph about how if you pay for the movie there’s twenty minutes of unskippable garbage you need to wait through and if you’re a pirate you just start the damn movie and watch.

nerdrage (profile) says:

piracy doesn't matter

Piracy is not caused by lack of access to content, price or any of the other excuses. Piracy is caused by successful marketing, which creates demand, which generates revenue and also generates piracy, which simply follows along in the wake of success, because there will always be someone who wants something for nothing as long as they don’t expect to be caught and punished.

Case in point: the most torrented movies list includes Netflix’s Extraction at #1, which is widely available all over the world and the subscription is a pittance. My Netflix is $9/month, if you can’t afford that measly sum, how do you afford the internet or electricity for that matter?

https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-most-pirated-movies-of-the-week-on-bittorrent-05-04-20/

So all the blather about piracy is utterly and completely pointless. Corporations are not going to stop attempting to successfully market their products and make money from them. So piracy will continue. It also will not have any material impact on the finances of the entertainment industry.

Piracy is not stopping content form being made, quite the opposite, content is proliferating beyond all sanity or ability for people to even keep up with it. If Covid-19 shuts off production for a while, it’s a blessing in disguise, to give us all a breather.

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