With the North American debut of "Iron Man 2" still five days away, scores of pirated copies of the comic-flick began popping up online this weekend.
The film, starring actor Robert Downey Jr., generated a whopping $100 million in ticket sales this weekend in its overseas debut, according to Reuters. Apparently, among the millions of International moviegoers to see the film were some hiding handheld cameras.
At The Pirate Bay on Sunday evening, there were dozens of copies of the Paramount Pictures' film available for download. According to comments by users, the copies available were recorded by people sitting in the theater who videotaped the movie off the screen using handheld cameras. This kind of pirated film often offers mediocre viewing quality: unsteady picture, blocked views, and poor sound.
But at least one copy of the movie at The Pirate Bay received kudos for being a "decent copy."
"Props for getting your hands on this so early," wrote one Pirate Bay user. "You guys rock, thanks so much."
"This sort of theft is intensely disrespectful and damaging to those who pour their creativity and capital into movies and television," said a spokesman for Viacom, parent company of Paramount Pictures. "It is time responsible governments put an end to it."
Hollywood has seen this kind of pre-release leak before.
A year ago, an unfinished copy of another comic-inspired film, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" appeared on the Web. In that case, the FBI arrested Gilberto Sanchez in December and charged him violating copyright law. The case is pending.
Kerry Gonzalez, the New Jersey man who uploaded the superhero film "Hulk" to the Web weeks before its 2003 theatrical release, pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement and was sentenced to six months house arrest and ordered to pay a $7,000 fine.
Law enforcement authorities have traced the video-cam recording and bootlegging of movies to organized crime.
When it comes to the distribution of pirated works online, it's unclear how much they actually harm ticket sales. Some people argue that when pirated copies circulate prior to a release they can ignite favorable word-of-mouth publicity--provided the film is any good.
The Motion Picture Association of America has said piracy is one of the main causes for shrinking DVD sales.
"Iron Man 2" is scheduled to debut in North America on Friday.
Thanks to Byron Ng for the tip.