While some pirates are content with downloading and viewing so-called ‘cam’ releases of the latest movies, few will be happy with the quality. Movies recorded surreptitiously in cinemas with home-made rigs can produce reasonable results but nothing beats the sparkle of a digital copy.
Filling that gap are DVD screeners, the advance copies of recent movies sent out to critics and awards voters. Often in DVD format (but now also in Blu-ray), these high quality releases are much sought after online and as a result are subjected to intense security by the studios sending them out.
But despite all the efforts, leaks always happen. Every year copies of DVD screeners (identified by the term DVDSCR) turn up on torrent sites and are downloaded in huge numbers. December and January are the key months for leaks and yesterday downloaders hit the jackpot.
Over the past 24 hours copies of at least nine big movies leaked online in decent quality, all apparently sourced from industry DVD screeners.
The Hobbit is a smash hit – without watermarks
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is proving exceptionally popular with BitTorrent users. Statistics gathered by TorrentFreak reveal that the movie was downloaded at least 500,000 times in the first 24 hours.
Several ‘versions’ of the movie exist on torrent sites, each labeled by rival release groups including CM8, EVO, TiTAN, Ozlem and RAV3N. But despite the apparent selection, sources inform TorrentFreak that there is only one true source. Whether that is CM8 remains unclear but in a comment the group revealed that a lot of time was spent removing security watermarks from Peter Jackson’s movie.
“Movie had watermarks visible and invisible ones, had to remove frames to get rid of them,” CM8 said.
“Nothing I haven’t done before. It was hours of work, but its finally done and here for you to get!”
Oscar hopefuls 2015
Yesterday, Indiewire published their Oscar predictions. Their ‘absolute locks’ for Best Picture include “Birdman” (Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis) and “The Imitation Game” (Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley). Both were leaked yesterday.
Also tipped for Best Picture is “Selma“, a chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Paramount sent DVD screeners to Academy voters in December and the movie leaked yesterday.
Also battling it out for Oscar glory are Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie, and crime thriller Nightcrawler. While the latter was leaked in October, the other titles were in yesterday’s batch.
Rounding off the DVD Screener bonanza are Disney’s Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes.
From studio to torrent site
Finally, it’s worth highlighting how these titles appeared online. For years one of the most popular routes was via the “The Scene” but in common with more recent times, yesterday’s DVD screeners hit the Internet via P2P/BitTorrent suppliers. These upstarts continue to slice the top off the so-called ‘piracy pyramid’.
According to TorrentFreak sources who asked to remain anonymous, the nine movies came from three different sources. One accounted for the Hobbit and another Big Hero 6. The remaining seven all came from a single source. The encoding on these is described as “choppy” suggesting the leaker may not be an experienced pirate.
Update: More screeners have leaked including The Gambler, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year and Kill The Messenger.