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Entertainment behind the scenes

Piracy sinks Fox columnist Roger Friedman

April 7, 2009

hugh-jackmanIn the high stakes battle over piracy in Hollywood, a Fox News columnist lost his job on Monday after he reviewed a pirated copy of the upcoming movie “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Roger Friedman is a big name in Hollywood entertainment news, but media reports say that fact did not protect his job when his corporate colleagues at 20th Century Fox called for his head, nor did it help that Friedman wrote a positive review of the movie (which has since been removed from the Fox website).

The New York Daily News reports that an estimated 75,000 people have downloaded the free, illegal copy of “Wolverine,” which stars Hugh Jackman, and the studio is concerned that the high interest in the film online could slash its box office appeal. But no one is saying that Friedman leaked the movie, he just reviewed it. In that sense, was his punishment too harsh?

The case is interesting because it illustrates how high the stakes are for piracy in Hollywood. As in past piracy cases, the studio has enlisted the help of the FBI, which is investigating the leak. This comes as federal lawmakers consider ratcheting up the pressure on movie pirates. On Monday in Los Angeles, members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing in Los Angeles, where eager entertainment industry executives and filmmakers called for harsher penalties to prevent piracy, trade paper Variety reported. ”Che” director Steven Soderbergh told the congressional committee that showbiz types like himself should be “deputized” to track down pirates on their own. What would socialist revolutionary Che Guevara think?

With Hollywood increasingly flexing its muscles to go after movie pirates, Friedman is one of many in the future who will be forced to walk the plank.


I think if the movie is good, people will pay to see it. So many fail to realize that while many people watch movies online, both legitimately and illegally, they are watching low-resolution, compressed forms of said movies (youtube-type quality). And of those, MOST would rather see it in high quality at the theatre, and again,if its good people WILL pay to see it. Remember dubbing cassettes off the radio (mix-tapes)?. Its a similar situation to that, you’d rather listen to the studio quality version, minus the background hiss and whatnot. If the song is good enough, you’ll go out and buy the tape, rather than listen to the raggedy dubbed version. Same problem, different industry/generation.

Posted by Shaun | Report as abusive

You’d think that after all these years of totally ineffective anti-piracy campaigns that have done nothing but drive away legit consumers, they’d just accept the fact that X percent of the target demographic will pirate and focus on making good movies. A rough cut a month before release is pretty egregious, but it really just goes to show that things *will* get torrented no matter what. It’s no different in software…SecuROM is arguably the most Orwellian copy-protection scheme ever used, but it only took pirates about three days to crack it.

The irony is Friedman’s review was quite positive, and probably could have boosted interest in the movie.

Posted by CppThis | Report as abusive

Shaun: You know nothing of the online scene of movie pirating. When a movie is pirated or leaked online, it is the real deal. It’s called an advance screener. The movie studio releases copies to the ratings people so they can watch it and put a rating such as R or PG-13 on it. They are ripped in full 480p and can be burned to disc and watched on any DVD player in full res. It’s nothing like dubbing cassettes(are you serious!) Seeing it on the big screen is a different story and probably seriously affected by this, as a very large percentage of movies are available on usenet weeks before they are out in the theaters, but you sir do not know what you are talking about.

Posted by someone | Report as abusive

I have no particular interest in the agendas of all those involded so I only have one thought: stealing is illegal and those who use stolen items in some way are guilty after the fact. Period.

Posted by Dr Doug | Report as abusive

In the UK a cinema (theater) ticket costs about £12 ($17.50) a box of popcorn £4 ($5.85) so i don’t have a lot of sympathy for the movie studios when there paying their ‘stars’ $10 or $20 million for a movie… Why would I want to pay so much money to see a film that might be garbage, in a theater with other people talking ti each other or on their cell phones? I much rather sit at home in front of my 50inch LCD with surround sound, able to pause the movie when I want to take a leak… If studios want to get more people into the theater and cut down piracy they need to LOWER PRICES, with the profits they make on DVD sales and the money they spend on production costs it is very achievable…

Posted by James | Report as abusive

You are assuming that non-commercial, digital “piracy” is stealing. When someone steals something, what happens? The “thief” gains something while the “victim” loses something. When you watch a video file of a movie that you downloaded from someone who was sharing the file, what happens? You get to watch a movie file that someone else willingly shared with you AND the creators of that video don’t lose anything. They still have the movie, they still have the rights to the movie.

When you download a shared file, you steal NOTHING. The closest you can come to calling this type of “piracy” stealing is saying that the “thief” is the person who originally created the video file against the rights-holder’s wishes. But even then, the rights-holders have not lost any quantifiable amount of anything. At most it is a violation of some agreement, but it is NOT theft.

You might say that what was stolen is the profit they WOULD have made from the ticket sales of everyone who watched the shared file. But you can’t steal something that doesn’t exist. These made up “sales” never happened, so they are not “stolen.”

You also might say that what was stolen is the “experience” of watching the film. But it is impossible to tell if ANY of the people who watched the shared file would have paid for it if the file wasn’t available for free. The people watching the file may have only watched it BECAUSE it was free. Thus, if it wasn’t available, they still would never have paid for it.

Also, can you steal an experience? Again, no one lost an “experience” when you gained it. So what was stolen then?


Do not insult the victims of real theft by saying these huge corporations are just as victimized by digital “piracy” as someone whose identity was stolen, or someone whose car was stolen. That is extremely disrespectful and stupid.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive

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