Hateful Eight

Is Movie Piracy Being Used as a Weapon?

Happy new year!

Over the holidays, an interesting story emerged concerning Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful EightIf you aren’t familiar with the film, it’s a western flick set in the post-civil war era. The plot really isn’t the point of this article, so if you don’t know much about it, no worries. Nonetheless, the trailer is posted below in case you’re curious.

(Warning: video slightly NSFW)

Alright, so the plot looks interesting, but what you may find even more interesting is how the film ultimately made its public debut. That is, although the movie was scheduled for limited release on December 25th, with wide release planned for December 31st, the film was actually released to the public on December 21st, when it was leaked online.

To be fair, I’ve written about a few other high profile movie leaks before and quite frankly, at this point, they’ve become something that’s almost expected. They’re certainly common enough these days that I don’t open a new tab and start writing a new blog post each time it happens — if I tried to do that, I would never have time to write about anything else! However, this leak in particular is noteworthy because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding how it happened, as well as where those circumstances may lead the industry in the future.

Allow me to explain.

The leaked copy of the movie was bound for an executive in the film industry, who is partially responsible for determining which films get nominated for various industry awards. That executive’s studio had its own film scheduled for release on December 25th, putting it in direct competition with The Hateful Eight. Combining that with the long-held belief in Hollywood that leaking a film online is a sure-fire way to reduce ticket sales, and it becomes clear that all of the makings of a conspiracy were in place.

Sure enough, almost immediately, there was some speculation that this leak was motivated by a desire to reduce competition for films scheduled to debut alongside the Tarantino flick. Of course, the executive who’s copy was leaked denied ever seeing the film and all reports have indicated that an office assistant had indeed signed for the delivery. Nonetheless, speculation about the executive’s role in the leak continued.

Now that it’s been a few weeks, there’s a little bit more clarity on the issue and it appears that a piracy group known as “Hive-CM8″ has taken credit for the leak — and then subsequently apologized for making the films available online after having a change of heart:

Sorry to disappoint M but there was no hack or any such thing . We got the copies sold from a guy on the street, no decryption was needed. we were definately not the only ones.

We feel sorry for the trouble we caused by releasing that great movie before cinedate even has begun. we never intended to hurt anyone by doing that, we didnt know it would get that popular that quickly

Still, it’s really not all that clear how the executive’s copy of the film made its way from the office assistant’s hands to “a guy on the street” — and perhaps we’ll never know for sure.

Nevertheless, this story struck me as particularly interesting because of the questions it raises about whether movie piracy actually is being used as a weapon to sabotage films.

Regardless of whether deliberate sabotage was the motivation for this particular leak, stories like this bring to light the idea that movies aren’t always — if ever — being leaked online for the sole benefit of movie fans.  Let’s not forget that movies are a big business with hefty price tags and a poorly received film can cost a studio millions of dollars. When the stakes are that high, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that someone would try to take advantage of widespread Internet piracy to give their film a little boost by lowering the demand for competing films — especially when their film is being released alongside films anticipated to be block busters.

Of course, this is just speculation at this point, but when you look at all of the pieces at play here, it does make you wonder if this is already happening or if we’ll start seeing more of this in the future. After all,  the accusations directed toward the movie executive were pretty highly publicized over the holidays, so if people weren’t thinking about the sabotaging power of film leaks before, there’s a good chance that a lot more people are at least aware of the idea now.  Then again, stories like this one fuel the flames of those looking to strengthen laws related to movie piracy in the hopes of deterring these sorts of leaks, so we may see less — it really could go either way at this point.

At any rate, if all of this drama in the first few weeks of 2016 are any indication at all of how the rest of the year is going to go, it seems likely that we’ll have plenty of interesting tech-oriented news to discuss this year.

Hope to see you back here again soon — here’s to an exciting 2016!

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