Avatar 2: Pirates Plot Russia Screenings as Draft Law Stamps on Copyrights

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Cinema owners say that Avatar: The Way of the Water will hit Russian screens this Christmas, despite Western sanctions. Exactly when is unclear but with backing from the Association of Theater Owners, it seems almost inevitable. Meanwhile, a draft law presented to the government envisions movies such as Avatar 2 being distributed all around Russia, without their owners' permission.

avatar2-smlFor millions of different reasons, Christmas is special for roughly two billion people globally.

Traditions in the U.S. include a family outing to the cinema in search of the latest blockbuster and this year Avatar: The Way of Water will undoubtedly attract the crowds.

For increasingly depressing reasons, new U.S. movies like Avatar 2 can’t be enjoyed in Russian cinemas on Christmas day, or on any other for that matter. Or at least that’s the theory.

Due to sanctions, Russians officially have a choice between watching older movies or local movies, but a third option is also gaining traction. Pirate screenings of Western movies are now common, and with the local cinema industry edging towards collapse, they’re increasingly acceptable too.

Cinema Owners Plan Pirate Screenings

Russians traditionally prefer celebrations around the New Year, but if they can watch Avatar 2 in cinemas come December 25, everything will be according to plan. Officially released this week in the U.S., James Cameron’s three-hour science fiction epic is made for the big screen and Russian cinema owners don’t want to miss out.

News outlet IZ recently contacted cinema owners in several areas of the country and was informed that if a decent copy becomes available, Avatar 2 will feature in their line-ups. In common with all pirate releases, quality is one of the most important factors. Timing also plays a key role, and as things stand, nobody can predict a specific date.

Quality and Timing

There are many moving parts in the piracy machine. Early cammed copies are commonplace, as are high-quality releases later on, but when everything comes together, big things can happen.

Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was reportedly leaked on the day of its official worldwide release and was immediately screened in some Russian cinemas but not all. Early screenings were reportedly restricted to cinemas with the ability to cover the costs associated with a pirate copy, presumably one good enough to show on a big screen

What Cost Piracy?

The exact cost of a pirate copy in Russia depends on a number of factors, IZ reports. It mentions none specifically but quality and timing are obviously important. In the end, however, nothing trumps availability. Access to pirate copies in Russia can cost as little as 50,000 rubles (US$790) but at the other end of the scale, 1,000,000 rubles (US$15,800) can sometimes be the going rate.

Some cinemas say they are prepared to screen Avatar 2 using a ‘экранку,’ better known in the West as a ‘cam’ or ‘camrip’. A more significant proposition is outlined too – access to the audio, image and data streams that together become a Digital Cinema Package (DCP).

“Large cinemas, primarily network ones, receive copies of perfect quality, DCP with unique ‘keys’. Moreover, these copies not only come with professional Russian dubbing, but also comply with modern Russian legislation,” IZ reports.

“Where and how copies get into Russian cinemas is kept secret, but Izvestia’s sources say that there is no single supply line and each case is negotiated separately.”

Draft Law Wants The Above Made Legal

A perfect copy of Avatar 2 hitting Russian cinemas via a DCP source seems unlikely but crazier things have happened recently, including a global pandemic and a major war in Europe. In the end, however, even cammed copies are illegal in Russia but, with no access to big movies, the country’s cinema industry is in a downward spiral.

With revenues down by up to 70%, the Association of Theater Owners begged the government for financial support to get them through a crisis the government caused. Support still hasn’t arrived and an announcement this week offered no specifics on when it might.

Facing what appears to be an existential crisis, the Association of Theater Owners is now supporting Russian senators and a draft law that would allow Russian cinemas to show unlicensed movies without legal consequences.

The text obtained by RIA Novosti (below) proposes extending special powers to the government so that it can temporarily limit rightsholders’ ability to enforce their rights. Translations of legal texts always carry risks of misinterpretation but exclusive rights aren’t called that for no reason, even if rightsholders receive an undetermined sum in compensation.

Establishment of the procedure for the fulfillment by residents to foreign right holders of monetary obligations related to the use of certain results of intellectual activity, including cases of using such results of intellectual activity without the consent of the right holders, but with the payment of remuneration to them, a list of results of intellectual activity in respect of which certain results of intellectual activity cannot be applied provisions of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation (Translated from Russian)


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