BAFTA Screeners Followup Part 2
Continuing (and concluding) my responses to the numerous interesting comments on my previous piece on the screener DVDs that the studios sent out to BAFTA (and, presumably, Oscar) voters...
Steven Smith wrote:
Thanks for the great article. I, personally, have never understood the approach of stamping "For Your Consideration" at the bottom of viewing copies. It doesn't seem like a significant deterrant for someone likely to copy it and for the sort of person that buys their favorite movies off the floor of a subway platform. Digital tracking numbers though? That degree of panoptic, Orwellian paranoia sends a chill through my spine that makes me want to unplug my modem and paint my windows black.
Actually, digital tracking numbers really aren't that spooky. Keep in mind that my DVD player doesn't communicate with the studios in any way. Once they've encoded a DVD and sent it out, the only way they're ever going to see my tracking number on their radar screens again is if my screener copy ends up being pirated.
In fact, I see digital tracking numbers as a fairly elegant and unobtrusive solution. They offer a strong disincentive to piracy and a means of tracking screener leaks without interfering with my viewing (and judging) ability. Indeed, it's much less intrusive than the "For Your Consideration" recurring watermark. The first studio that is clever enough to get rid of visual watermarks entirely (in favor of invisible digital ones) is going to give its filmmakers a leg up in the awards race.
Anyway, plenty of reviewer screeners have been discovered to be the source files for widely copied films, so it's not unfounded for the studios to suggest that locking down the screener copies is necessary, even if only to deter a small minority of their intended reviewing audience.
I agree it's not unreasonable for studios to lock down their screener copies. What is less reasonable is when, in doing so, they incur a bigger loss than would have been caused by piracy.
In other words: let "X" be the amount of money Buena Vista has saved by discouraging those pirates who would have copied the Oscar screener copy of "The Life Aquatic" if it weren't for the fact that every frame was stamped "Property of BVI Do Not Duplicate." Let "Y" be the amount of additional box office that the film would have taken in had it done better in the Oscar and BAFTA nominations. Does anybody really think X is greater than Y?
That concludes my comments on the comments, and I will henceforth shut up about that damned "Life Aquatic" screener. But before I abandon the topic entirely, I'll direct your attention to the bottom of my original post--scroll down and you'll see interesting and worthwhile comments by several readers, including Lawrence (regarding the sheer volume of piracy in China) and Steve (regarding the actual nature of anti-piracy lawsuits).