Oscar Contenders Already On-Line

The world of online entertainment piracy changes every day and continues to surprise even the most jaded users.

The music and television industries adapted to the illegal download market with what now seems like surprising speed – both providing legitimate avenues like iTunes and HD-quality official site video players for just released songs and just aired television episodes.

The film industry however is still playing catchup. While the understandably very illegal nature of camcorded movies leaking online still takes place, more and more now decent quality ‘DVD rips’ manage to make their way online.

Some are retail preview copies that generally hit a few weeks before the film’s DVD release, some are a fusion of what’s called ‘line audio’ with Russian DVD video encodes, and of course lately has come a large number of awards screeners – rips of DVDs sent out to critics and film industry professionals that include many films currently in theatres.

In past years only the occasional awards screener managed to hit the online torrenting sites. This year however, more than half of the films sent out to Academy members have already made their way online and are easily discoverable to anyone with a browser.

The leaks began at the end of November and before Christmas with the likes of “Cadillac Records,” “Che: Part One,” “The Duchess,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Gran Torino,” “Let the Right One In,” “Milk,” “Quantum of Solace,” “Revolutionary Road,” “Religulous,” “Seven Pounds,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Wendy and Lucy” making it onto the P2P networks.

Just this past week “The Wrestler,” “Frozen River,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Defiance” joined that list.

Yet to hit however are some of the smaller titles like “Good,” “I’ve Loved You So Long,” “Last Chance Harvey,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Synecdoche, New York,” and “Waltz with Bashir”.

The studios naturally work fast to bring down these links, when a link goes up it usually dies within 24 hours. Many of the titles mentioned which were easily discoverable a week or two ago are near impossible to find today, and those that are to be found can often be either fake or potentially hazardous as ‘phishers’ use them for nefarious purposes. Also the quality of these rips judging from the sample pictures online, while good, are more comparable to VHS than DVD let alone Blu-ray – a real shame for films with exquisite visual detail like ‘Benjamin Button’.

In the end though, it’s a practice that will likely continue until the industry as a whole gets off its ass and starts developing a proper online distribution model for the 21st century rather than relying on expensive gimmicks like the impressive but overrated IMAX or headache-inducing 3D to shore up falling attendance numbers.