After “The Expendables 3” leaked online in late July, at least 2.2 million people have downloaded the film illegally in DVD quality.
The film opens in theaters today -- for the movie’s distributor, Lions Gate, that’s a problem. The Expendables leak is the most high-profile leak since 2009, when a partial version of “X-Men Origins” showed up online prior to the film’s release.
Complete, high quality leaks are rare -- hardly ever does a film show up on the internet before it arrives in theaters. Many argue that the shaky, handheld camcorder versions of movies that typically leak after a theatrical release don’t do much to stop ticket sales. Lions Gate says the Expendables leak will likely have “immediate and severe adverse consequences.”
Studios have fought hard to protect the secrecy of a film until it plays in theaters, and the production company says that in the case of “The Expendables 3,” they’ll be hurt at the box office and in their relationships with theaters.
Lions Gate has issued take down orders for several of the sites still hosting the leaked version, but many haven’t responded -- once something is up, it may never be completely taken down, only made slightly harder to find.
What’s the best way to keep movies private until their intended launch? What are the security measures and legal actions a studio may take against people who pirate films? Would you download the leaked version of a movie, or spend the money to see it in theaters?
Michael Robinson, Executive Vice President of Global Content Protection at the Motion Picture Association of America
Michael Smith, Professor of Information Technology and Marketing at Carnegie Mellon University