Sony Planned to Flood Torrent Sites With “Promo” Torrents

Sony Pictures' TV network AXN developed a guerrilla marketing campaign to convert users of The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and other torrent sites to paying customers. The company planned to flood torrent sites with promos for the premiere Hannibal disguised as pirated copies of the popular TV-show.

Copyright holders have a wide range of options they can employ to counter online piracy. Takedown notices are best known and sent out in their millions every day. However, the people at Sony Pictures’ TV network AXN thought that uploading content to torrent sites could help their business.

Sony’s AXN in Central Europe developed an ad campaign for the show “Hannibal” which proposed posting torrents of the first minute of the show on popular torrent sites such as Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents.

The revelations are part of the Sony Pictures leaks which contain a discussion on the plan, framing it as a “brilliant anti­piracy social campaign.” The AXN employee describes the idea as follows.

“The idea is simple. We made a promo dedicated to Hannibal which is convincing people in very creative and no­invasive way to watch Hannibal legally on AXN instead downloading it from torrents.

“[T]his promo is supposed to be downloaded on the torrents sites, imitating the first episode of Hannibal season 2 but in reality would be only a 60 sec promo. The torrents sites are exactly the place where people just after [the] US premier would be searching for the first episode of season 2. So the success of this project is more than 100% sure.”

Unfortunately for the AXN Central Europe team the advertising campaign wasn’t well received at Sony Pictures’ headquarters in Los Angeles. The Hollywood execs showed great concern about the sites where these promos would end up, a view that wasn’t widely shared by the team in Europe.

“From the legal point of view in many CE countries the torrents sites itself are legal. Only sharing and downloading the illegal stuff there is not. This project is to support anti­piracy strategy not against,” the AXN employee writes.

“From my perspective this would be something really unconventional, something to be shared and presented in case studies presentations. Great story for be presented at the panel discussions. This could really help us to show AXN CE is actively fighting against piracy.”

Part of the promo email
sony-promo

The discussion eventually landed on the desk of a Sony Pictures Executive Vice President, who emphasized that it was a no go. Populating torrent sites with promos could risk current efforts to disrupt those same websites.

“I called [XXX] and restated that this is simply a long road to ‘no’ because it so severely undercuts our efforts not only in CE, but all we have accomplished elsewhere.

“Forget about a site blocking strategy if we start putting legitimate PSAs or promos on sites we’ve flagged to governments as having no legitimate purpose other than theft… PSAs being for public good, etc…”

And so it never happened…

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