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For Your Consideration…

4 Mar, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

With the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) getting limited results chasing down every potential file trader from college students to Internet service providers and corporations and notifying them of crackdowns, 20th Century Fox is set to take a new tack: anti-file-trading ads in movie theaters.

A Los Angeles Times article from ShoWest in Las Vegas says Fox will raise the curtain on a two-minute trailer that is supposed to “put a human face on the victims of piracy”.

I suppose Fox is choosing the appropriate arena, since a copy of Attack of the Clones that showed up on a file trading service while the movie was still in theatrical release was reportedly traced to a video camera at the back of a screening room at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Clearly some folks like to tape the show with a handy cam. But I suspect anyone in most theaters who actually engages in movie piracy will take special delight in reproducing the trailer as well.

I can hardly wait to see what these ads will look like. I'm expecting something like the national office of drug policy's TV spots about how popping one pill or smoking one joint funds assassinations in other countries. Not that I'm personally endorsing those activities, either, but the ads are so heavy-handed they just make you want to go out and defy authority. Or at least eat an extra dessert. You have to love Ariana Huffington's parody version jibing SUVs.

Considering Monday's Wall Street Journal article on how many pirated DVD copies have been ripped from Academy screeners this year alone, creating “a pirate product that is superior to typical bootlegs,” the theatrical trailer seems like a lot of window dressing. Really, how serious can the studios be if they are passing out digital copies before their commercial release?

Only Disney refused to send its Oscar screeners on DVD this year. Then again, all Disney had was the box office pooch Treasure Planet and Spike Lee's 25th Hour, so the studio had less to lose than others. Corporate sister Miramax sent out hundreds of copies of Gangs of New York and Chicago on disc. Six copies of Chicago are available for sale on eBay as I write this column.

I guess the studios have a right to try any avenue they can to discourage piracy. But until they control their own pre-release digital copies, I hope they don't expect anyone to take them seriously.

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