Sony Takes Down Leaked Unfinished Spider-Man Trailer, Releases Finished One Days Later

from the its-advertising-you-dolts dept

We’ve talked plenty of times in the past about instances in which publishers of content, typically movies, get copyright takedowns performed on trailers. These takedowns are, frankly, never a great idea, but they are particularly stupid when companies like Marvel, Disney, and Warner Bros. takedown trailers, otherwise known as advertisements, and then release an identical or nearly identical trailer days later. What in the actual hell is the point of that? Killing off your own word of mouth and free advertising for your film?

Now, Sony just went through this experience itself, having attempted to DMCA to death a leaked and, importantly, unfinished trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The way in which the trailer apparently leaked is obviously a concern. It surfaced via the video sharing app TikTok and immediately went viral, but it wasn’t long before Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube had nabbed it. The trailer footage was clearly cut before most of the VFX were added, and was presented in the kind of disastrous way that would give Christopher Nolan nightmares – with a phone filming another phone screen filming another screen – but that didn’t stop fans getting the gist of the trailer.

So, part of the desire to put the trailer genie back in the bottle was surely the unfinished nature of the trailer and some of the fan reactions to seeing it without special effects being added in. So, does that make Sony’s decision to try and DMCA it out of existence the right move?

Hell no. And there are several reasons why. The first and most obvious is that, not surprisingly, it didn’t freaking work. You can still today go out on several sites and find the leaked version of the trailer. There are YouTube videos and videos on other platforms of the trailer being shown and discussions being had about its contents. In fact, you could rightly suggest that Sony trying to kill the trailer generated even more buzz around it, leading even more people to watch than might have otherwise. The Streisand Effect at work, in other words. So, one strike against this move was how ineffectual and counterproductive it was.

But then note that Sony dropped the official and finished trailer days later. And the coverage of the official release was generally quite positive. The story incorporates the MCU’s multiverse, perhaps most famously utilized in another Spider-Man related film, Into the Spiderverse, in which there are multiple realities in which different personalities are in control of different superheroes who make different decisions.

So imagine for a moment that we live in such a multiverse, something that is a studied possibility. What if there were another universe in which Sony’s lawyers, instead of trying to ineffectually un-leak a widely shared trailer for a hot property, said instead something like this:

Hey, Spider-Man and Marvel fans! We know an unfinished version of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ leaked yesterday. We didn’t authorize the leak because the work on it wasn’t completed. In fact, it looks a hell of a lot different than what we actually have prepared for you. But we also know how passionate you all are as fans, so we’re guessing a great many of you went out and watched it. That’s awesome! We love how much you love Spider-Man!

And that’s why we definitely want you to see the finished version. Unlike the leaked version, the official trailer adds in the awesome effects you can expect when you actually go see the movie in theaters! In fact, we think you should definitely watch both trailers so that you get an idea of the insanely good work our effects studio does. See you in the theaters in December!

I wrote that in three minutes. How many billable hours did Sony’s lawyers log instead failing to un-leak the previous trailer? And which move builds more good will in the community of Spider-Man fans? Which one had a greater positive effect?

The answer is obvious. And, yet, we still see studios trying to treat the internet as though it were a place where you can disappear content.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Sony Takes Down Leaked Unfinished Spider-Man Trailer, Releases Finished One Days Later”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t usually think of myself as a corporate shill. But I just can’t figure out what you think the proper usage of copyright law or the DMCA is. Not wanting a leaked unfinished trailer online when the official trailer is days away is a pretty reasonable position.

I unfortunately have come away feeling like you will say basically anything Nintendo or Sony does is bad, yet you’ll defend Tim Sweeny’s anti-consumer practices and petty lawsuits since your hatred of his competitors is so strong.

Hopefully I’m wrong and misinterpreting your position.

Boat44 says:

Re: Re:

I agree, it seems like there are zero use cases where using the DMCA is acceptable.
The other side of this which wasn’t even mentioned as a possibility is that Sony knew full well the Streisand Effect would occur and thought “Great! Lots of extras free publicity if we handle this correctly”. A boring statement like the one you proposed is not generating news headlines across the media that the “Sony trying to take down unfinished Spider-Man trailer” did.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Not wanting a leaked unfinished trailer online when the official trailer is days away is a pretty reasonable position"

In terms of strict adherence to copyright law, sure. In terms of its spirit or actual effect on the market, it’s utter nonsense.

Basically, almost nobody who isn’t already a hardcore fan counting down the days until they’re allowed to pay money to watch the full movie is going to bother downloading the incomplete trailer. Then, almost nobody is going to watch the unfinished trailer, then decide not to pay money on the basis of unfinished effect shots. We saw this with the workprint leak of Wolverine a few years back – the film was wildly successful even though people had a version of the full movie. A leak of an unfinished piece of marketing isn’t going to cause any problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Everything gets graded on a curve when the system is broken. They didn’t destroy someone’s life work. They didn’t cause anyone financial hardship. They just tried to get their stolen IP removed since they weren’t ready for it to be released. I’ll again ask, if that’s not a reasonable use of a DMCA takedown what is an acceptable use?

The flip side of it having no effect on the market is them filing the DMCA isn’t going to change anything either. This just seems like a non-issue. Ya Sony could have just left it up, but no one suffered because of the DMCA either.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The purpose of the copyright is to encourage public release of works. The purpose if he DMVA is to help secure those rights. If it gives power beyond that(which it does), it’s going to see a lot of coverage for its abuses (which are legion)

Generally, Techdirt doesn’t like the DMCA because Techdirt thinks (and i agree) the DMCA goes too far in protecting the copyright without also protecting the rights of the end user and the DMCA also fails to be narrowly tailored to supporting the purpose of copyright, treating copyright itself as the goal rather than only the means to another end. This is why Techdirt advocates a different notice system. (notice and notice rather than notice and takedown) and introducing real teeth to penalties against bad faith takedowns. They advocate reform, so you should expect articles here to only highlight the abuse

Case in point: Marketing material. While legally that material has copyright, and is a valid subject if a DMCA claim, infringement of marketing materials doesn’t harm the copyright holder. Marketing materials work best when widely disseminated to the target audience. The purpose of marketing material is to build hype for some other work or event. To do this most effectively it needs to be shared, repeatedly, to as many people as possible. a copyright only gets in the way of that. It makes the DMCA an odd tool to use against marketing material generally. Using the DMCA to limit the spread of a work intended to be distributed at the expense of the copyright holder to the public at large makes no sense.

The unfinished trailer has the similar issue. They could have played the leak as a marketing ploy. get the rabid fans to watch the raw trailer for free, with no ad buys, then when the finished trailer drops 2 days later they get free marketing as videos compare the unfinished and finished shots. bulls a ton of goodwill by playing into fan interest in how the sausage is made, and the rabid fanbase will the evangelize the finished trailer to less dedicated friends and family. but that doesn’t fit in the focus tested hyper detailed marketing release schedule from which there can be no deviation, so executives throw away the free advertising and shut down that discussion (or at least try to)

Taking down the trailer might enforce copyright, but what it doesn’t do is “promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts”, nor does it protect the market for a work whose marketable value is $0 (arguably, negative because you expect to spend as money distributing this and than not selling it. The movie needs protection, not the marketing. It’s serves the law, but it doesn’t serve the purpose of copyright, it does not serve the reasons copyright exists and can only serve to slow fan support and hurt the content being marketed.

As is often the refrain, just because you legally can, doesn’t mean you should.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"But no one suffered because of the DMCA either."

Therein lies the problem with the DMCA – the fact that the people who use it the most often assume that even incorrect usage, or abuse, shouldn’t be pointed out because they assume the damage is entirely innocuous. DMCA abuse is never punished in the same way that DMCA enforcement is applied. It’s never "whoops, sorry we messed up". It’s always "We were entitled to do this. Just be grateful we chose not to fuck you up that hard."

You could argue that no damage was inflicted this time, but here’s the thing – how much damage do you think that leaks and discussions and critiques inflict? All three of those things have been consistently fought with via DMCA abuse. If the DMCA and its supporters expect to be respected when there’s "no effect on the market", how does that excuse past behavior when despite no effect on the market, the DMCA has been wielded like a goddamn sledgehammer?

The fact is, usage of the DMCA is a well that has long been poisoned by its supporters. It earned its own hard-fought, well-deserved reputation. The reality might be that nobody thinks a DMCA takedown is reasonable even when it’s legitimate, and copyright fans only have themselves to blame for it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"They just tried to get their stolen IP removed"

Nothing was stolen, stop falling for that stupidity.

"I’ll again ask, if that’s not a reasonable use of a DMCA takedown what is an acceptable use?"

Again, nobody’s saying it’s not a legally correct use, just that it’s an idiotic one.

But, an acceptable use would be where something like an actual product being leaked or a situation where there’s actual losses, not a beta version of marketing material being visible to the same fans who still jumped on the "full" version when it was released.

"This just seems like a non-issue"

…which is why people are criticising Sony for wasting their time and money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lawyers have to justify their high paychecks , but taking down a trailer is like trying to empty the ocean pointless , it will be posted on 100 s of websites, they will go after sites like tik Tok or YouTube, where billions go to view trailers,
Also this is a low quality cellphone video
Any trailer is building buzz for a movie in the time of endless content and entertainment choices

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Because the mindset is the same as the people who freak out over seeing a child walking half a block to the store alone.

Something horrible will happen unless we do something now now now. I heard from a friend of a friend on facebook that sometimes these studios are trolling the parking lots at target & putting flyers on cars to distract young filmgoers so they can be abducted into white vans and sold into the white slave trade & forced to animate movies bound for China.

Michael says:

Maybe that's the point?

you could rightly suggest that Sony trying to kill the trailer generated even more buzz around it, leading even more people to watch than might have otherwise.

It doesn’t occur to techdirt authors that Sony did this entirely as to gain attention for the movie? That would seem to be the obvious motivation, considering I don’t give a shit about Spiderman but was made aware yesterday (over and over again!) that a new movie is coming out.

This whole situation is cheap advertising for Sony, including this techdirt article.

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