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Pirates Are Cloning <I>The Clones</I>

10 May, 2002 By: Hive News

Bootlegged copies of Star Wars: Episode II –- Attack of the Clones are already available on the Internet via peer-to-peer (P2P) file trading services, including one that appears to have been shot at a screening, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

“A million people will have seen Star Wars before it's opened," predicted Bruce Forest, an independent media technology consultant and an expert on piracy. “That's never happened before.”

Many industry observers do not expect the bootlegs of Attack of the Clones to cut into box-office receipts, but some worry about the effect on videotape and DVD revenue, which makes up a significant portion of a studio's profit.

“The experience in theaters is a thousand times more dynamic than you would ever get on a computer screen at home, so what people will be getting is just some sense of the plot line of the film, without the full impact of the special effects," Richard Jewell, associate dean of the School of Cinema-Television at USC, told The Los Angeles Times.

Studios and Motion Picture Association lobbyists have launched a full-court press on digital piracy on Capitol Hill in recent months, citing just such examples of advance bootlegs before theatrical release, but some observers say piracy hurts home video more than box office.

“Where it's a complete disaster is in the home video business," Los Angeles entertainment attorney Nancy Newhouse Porter told The Times. "Now they can make copies and ship digital files to places like China, where we have a really hard time enforcing our copyright laws."

Spider-Man turned up online the day before its U.S. theatrical debut, but some are not surprised since Sony opted to open the film in Malaysia just days before the U.S. opening. Southeast Asia is a hotbed for digital piracy, often topping international statistics for pirated movies and games.

One bootleg version of Attack of the Clones appears to have been made at a private showing of the film, using a tripod-mounted digital camcorder pointed at the screen and another evidently employed a more sophisticated version of the same technique, The Times wrote, noting both were distributed first through Internet Relay Chat, a computer protocol that enables users to copy files at high speed from other computers on widespread networks.

Episode One also was available online before its official release in May 1999, but fewer people had the knowledge, gear or fat pipe connections for downloading movies and music. By now, thousands of people download free P2P software each week.

"The fact that people have taken a digital camera into a screening isn't novel in itself," said analyst P.J. McNealy of GartnerG2 told The Times. "There's just more hype around this one because it's Attack of the Clones.”

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