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Monday, November 24, 2003

On Piracy, DVDs, and the Oscars

In NYC, I stayed partly with my cousin, a writer's assistant for one of the biggest shows on television. He's worked for the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the concerts at the Olympics, and, for many years, at the Sundance Film Festival. He took me around for a bit to go shopping; what struck my eye the most were the DVDs of Gothika, Cat in the Hat, and whatever else is new and not even out in the theatres yet.

I asked him about these DVDs; I was curious if that was what the Academy was trying to prevent by stopping screeners. "Yes and no," he responded. The existence of pirated pre-release copies is, ostensibly, the reason for the Academy's perturbation. However, he explained, the leaks generally come, not from screeners, but from people in low-level positions, not much higher than his coffee-fixing jobs in high school: often, this is people who are granted access to pre-release copies in order to proofread, as it were; to check to see that all the sound lines up, that the foley artists haven't screwed up, that the colors aren't off, etc. While there is a small amount of leakage from the Academy's chosen (I've watched screeners, obtained through a roommate's father's friend or whatnot), most of it comes from people inside the studio itself, my cousin told me.

He argues, and quite believably, that the reason for the Academy's short-lived ban was an interest in favor of big studios, whose work would be seen without Academy assistance, and opposed to indie films not often making it out of their small circles and getting noticed by the tv-ad-watching general public.

In short, Roger L. Simon's suspicions would seem to be correct.


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