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.