The moral of this story is if you get hold of a prerelease copy of a film, keep it to yourself. If you make that unfinished copy available, and people respond negatively to it, you will be hunted down like a dog:
- Kerry Gonzalez, a 24-year-old New Jersey insurance underwriter, pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court to criminal charges of posting the bootlegged movie on the Internet. He could face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Although scores of cases have involved consumers pirating movies online and in other media, this example of bootlegging was especially painful for Vivendi Universal, and marked the beginning of a potentially dangerous trend for the industry: consumers viewing a work in progress.
….The winding trail leading to Gonzalez’s plea began in early June at a Manhattan advertising agency that was working on the marketing campaign for the Ang Lee movie, studio sources said Wednesday.
An acquaintance told Gonzalez that he had seen a copy of “The Hulk,” thanks to a friend who worked at the agency. The acquaintance asked Gonzalez whether he wanted to check it out, said Matthew Portella, Gonzalez’s defense attorney.
Gonzalez said that he did and soon had a videotaped copy of “The Hulk” work print. Officials with the FBI, who said the case remains open, declined to name the ad agency or the man who gave Gonzalez the tape.
At his home in Hamilton, N.J., Gonzalez slipped the tape into a digital scanner and made an electronic copy, according to court documents.
The two-hour work print – the term used for such early copies of a movie in postproduction – is dark in spots, shows details of the digital wires used to create the virtual Hulk and lacks a soundtrack. It also includes security tags — unique markers on the top and bottom right-hand corners of the screen, as well as numerical strings embedded in the videotape.
….Gonzalez, who knew about the security tags, used a software program in an attempt to black them out. On June 6, he logged on to a Web site based in the Netherlands and, according to court records, allowed people to download the work print.
Within hours, the movie files had spread from the Netherlands, reaching peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and also Internet Relay Chat, a computer protocol that allows users to copy files from other computers at high speeds.
By the time Randall’s phone rang about 11:30 that same night, the damage had been done – and it was spreading, as many fans and Internet movie viewers reacted negatively to an unfinished film. [LA Times]
I have relatively little synpathy for Gonzalez: he knew this was an working version, he should have known consumer reaction to the film would be negative with so much not yet in place, his action directly affected word of mouth and as a result ticket sales. Of course Universal was gong to come after his ass. If he had waited until the movie was out, then the working copy would have been little more than a curiosity and no one would have much cared.