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.

Filed Under: andy baio, copyright, dvds, hd, movies, oscars, piracy, screeners
Companies: mpaa


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jan 2015 @ 7:57pm

    Look over here!!
    We are winning!!
    Pay no attention to what is happening over there.
    We did a good job, now pay your dues so we can do more!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 8:45pm

    DVDs had already been around for many years before Hollywood finally gave up issuing VHS screeners (perhaps because few people still had VHS players by then).

    History repeats, and the screener's DVD to Bluray/HD transition (which could have happened as early as 2006) is going just as slowly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 3:55am

      Re:

      By extrapolation, we'll all have neural implants and be streaming movies (complete with emotions) directly into our brains by the time the MPAA gets around to using H264 or MKV for the Oscars :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Max (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 4:23am

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Kal Zekdor (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 6:00am

        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) :

        720x480 (DVD) - 15"
        1280x720 - 24.5"
        1920x1080 (HD) - 36.8"
        3840x2160 (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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 7:25am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Kal Zekdor (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 8:16am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2015 @ 12:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Good for you.

            I watch HD almost exclusively now so when I go down to SD ever now and then it's horrendous. SD makes my eyes want to start bleeding.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 1:36am

    The MPAA is proud of it's record.

    Just look, no more Betamax tapes were used for the Oscars! See, they were successful. Piracy can be stopped. /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 3:07am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 3:59am

      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)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 4:51am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      got_runs? (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      MPAA: Drop a $20 dollar bill on the ground and whoever picks it up goes to jail.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 25 Jan 2015 @ 12:05pm

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 25 Jan 2015 @ 6:32pm

        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'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 9:38am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 24 Jan 2015 @ 4:53am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 5:54am

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        webcat (profile), 25 Jan 2015 @ 4:43am

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

        John wick, have you seen that movie, best not to watch it from high buildings or with any sharp objects near by. either you or the tv is going to get it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 9:01am

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

      John Wick has been available as a 720p web rip since 1/13. A blu-ray was leaked 3 days ago, along with commentary and extras that will be available on the retail disc.

      TLDR: you don't know what you're talking about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 5:44am

    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'?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 1:49pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 8:02am

    "Content Protection" is like handing someone a locked box, with the key taped to the bottom of the box, and expecting they will only be able to open the box at a certain location and a certain time of day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    thomas smith, 24 Jan 2015 @ 8:38am

    movies

    the sky high prices at the movie houses has convinced me to wait a year or so to see anything, much cheaper on line or rent dvd / stream.
    i will give Hollywood a few dollars but not what they are asking. screw them!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 1:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 2:44pm

    It's hilarious to see you clowns constantly complain about Hollywood when you're so in love with their product that you break the law to get it. Toooo funny

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 4:21pm

      Re:

      Whined the cocksucking, chicken-noisemaking jackass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 5:03pm

      Re:

      Do the different straw producers get into bidding wars over your services?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 6:23pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 7:00pm

        Re: Re:

        You're here because you steal it, because you're addicted to it.
        Sorry, but that's fucking hilarious.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 7:51pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 7:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Sure. You spend all this time on this blog, as an "insider", acting like Hollywood has murdered your family, but you don't pirate. Totally believable dood.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 9:05pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 25 Jan 2015 @ 1:07am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 10:27pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So you're only permitted to complain about something if said something has murdered your family? What kind of crapshoot world do you live in?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2015 @ 9:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Do you break all the mirrors in your house?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Derek Kerton (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 2:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 25 Jan 2015 @ 1:00am

      Re:

      Do you have any proof for this defamatory attack yet, or is it just the fiction you have to invent to pretend that your masters are not criminals?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 4:46am

      Re:

      Personally, I hate their product. Anything 'hollywood' is not for me. Im too smart.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Blough, 24 Jan 2015 @ 4:04pm

    So where are the copies coming from?

    One observation being made in the article is that these movies are (mostly) leaking from sources other than DVD screeners.

    So why am I the only one asking what these other sources are?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 2:05pm

      Re: So where are the copies coming from?

      So why am I the only one asking what these other sources are?

      This is purely a half-assed guess, since I have no insider information, but from what I gather they are likely talking about insiders within the production companies themselves leaking the videos. It has happened before.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2015 @ 7:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 10:43am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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