January 31, 2012
Jeff Atwood on the risks of unmoderated communities — left to their own devices, popular online communities get taken over by cheap, easy gags (via)
Every year, the MPAA tries desperately to stop Oscar screeners — the review copies sent to Academy voters — from leaking online. And every year, teenage boys battling for street cred always seem to defeat whatever obstacles Hollywood throws at them.
For the last 10 years, I’ve tracked the online distribution of Oscar-nominated films, going back to 2003. Using a number of sources (see below for methodology), I’ve compiled a massive spreadsheet, now updated to include 310 films.
This year, for the first time, I’m calling it: after three years of declines, the MPAA seems to be winning the battle to stop screener leaks. But why?
A record 37 films were nominated this year, and the studios sent out screeners for all but four of them. But, so far, only eight of those 33 screeners have leaked online, a record low that continues the downward trend from last year.
(Disclaimer: Any of this could change before the Oscar ceremony, and I’ll keep the data updated until then.)
They may be winning the battle, but they’ve lost the war.
While screeners declined in popularity, 34 of the nominated films (92 percent) were leaked online by nomination day, with 25 of them available as high-quality DVD or Blu-ray rips. Only three films — Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, My Week with Marilyn and W.E. — haven’t leaked online in any form (yet!).
If the goal of blocking leaks is to keep the films off the internet, then the MPAA still has a long way to go.
There are a number of theories about what’s causing the decline.
It could be attributed to tighter controls — personalized watermarks, the aggressive prosecution of leakers, and greater awareness of the risks for Academy voters.
But the MPAA may have little to do with the decline. Oscar-nominated films could be coming out earlier in the year, making screeners less important.
Or maybe the interests between the mainstream downloader and industry favorites is diverging? If the Oscars are mostly arthouse fare and critical darlings, but with low gross receipts, they’ll be less desirable to leak online. It would be very interesting to track the historical box office performance of nominees to see how it affects downloading. (Maybe next year!)
The continuously shrinking window between theatrical and retail releases may be to blame. After all, once the retail Blu-ray or DVD is released, there’s no reason for pirate groups to release a lower-quality watermarked screener.
The chart below tracks the window between U.S. release and its first DVD/Blu-Ray leak online, which shows how the window between theatrical and retail release dates is slowly closing since 2003.
Whatever the reason, online movie releasing groups are taking longer to pirate movies than ever. When I first started tracking releases in the early- to mid-2000s, the median time between theatrical release to its first leak online was 1 to 2 days. Now, that number’s crept up to over three weeks.
The rise in leak time correlates with a dip in popularity for lower-quality sources, like camcorder-sourced footage. This year, only eight of the 37 nominees (21 percent) were sourced from camcorder footage. (This is likely because there are fewer blockbuster nominees than in the mid-2000s.)
As the industry slowly transitions from physical media to streaming video, it’ll be interesting to see if the downward trend continues, or if the ease of capturing streaming video spawns a new renaissance for screeners. Last year, Fox Searchlight distributed screeners with iTunes, and all were quickly and easily pirated.
The Data Dump
I include the full-length feature films in every category except documentary and foreign films (even music, makeup, and costume design).
I use Yahoo! Movies for the release dates, always using the first available U.S. date, even if it was a limited release, falling back to the first available U.S. date in IMDB.
The official screener release dates are from Academy member Ken Rudolph, who kindly lists the dates he receives each screener on his personal homepage. Thanks again, Ken!
How and why J.D. Roth sold Get Rich Slowly — interesting tale of a founder selling his site, but unable to share the details for years
Yahoo lays off in-house Flickr support team — from what I hear, it was done with 10 minutes’ notice to Flickr management
Mapstalgia — videogame maps drawn from memory
Impressions of Corporate Logos by a 5-Year-Old — “a cheetah, a cheetah, a cheetah”
Bellbot — web app that beeps when you get new signups or sales
ScratchML — markup language for recording and replaying turntablism
Why are software development task estimations regularly off by a factor of 2-3? — nice piece of Quora fiction (via)
David Carr on Kickstarter's film funding at Sundance — 10% of the festival was funded on Kickstarter, with two optioned by HBO
Why ten-year attendee Mike Pusateri's skipping SXSW this year — I made the same decision to skip this year; I may regret it, but it just wasn’t fun last year
MegaUpload's user data set to be destroyed by Friday — collateral damage in the copyright war
Blogging declines across the Inc. 500 — too bad; Twitter and Facebook aren’t a replacement for longer-form communication
Identifying Ice Cube's "Good Day" — process of elimination
Typographica's favorite typefaces of 2011 — returning after a two-year break
Pirating the Oscars, 2012 — now with 10 years of data; I’ll republish the article here tomorrow
Mario meets Tim from Braid — with cameos from Limbo and Super Meat Boy
Method of Action's color matching game — love the colorblind mode
One Hour Per Second — visualizing the incredible rate of YouTube uploads
Nelson Minar on Microsoft 1995 vs. Google 2012 — Google will be in trouble if their strategy succeeds, or if it doesn’t
Plancast post-mortem — sad to hear they’re ending development, it showed potential
Jonathan Coulton on MegaUpload and the overblown threat of piracy — essential reading, along with Tim O’Reilly’s post from earlier this week
Anil Dash on the history and future of web protest — related: Marco Arment on stopping the next SOPA
Congress puts SOPA/PIPA on hold, Rep. Lamar Smith finally caves — nice work, Internet
Star Wars Uncut: The Director's Cut — the final edit of the amazing, crowdsourced Star Wars remake that won an Emmy
TorrentFreak on the legal files lost in the MegaUpload shutdown — I’m sure top men are working on returning those files (via)
Zapatou's mashup of 71 "Rolling in the Deep" YouTube covers — man, I wish Kutiman would do a Thru-You followup
@grammer_man, a Twitter bot that corrects misspellings — using word lists from Wikipedia; some great responses so far (via)
Where does Congress stand on SOPA/PIPA? — updated constantly; more Republicans now oppose it, but Democrats still support it 40-34
Sal Khan's explanation of SOPA and PIPA — hands down, the fairest and clearest explanation of the goals and risks I’ve seen for the layperson
Amit Gupta found a bone marrow donor! — and saved future lives, thanks to the international donor drives
PIPA supporters violating copyright — including cropping out credits
Clay Shirky's TED talk on defending our freedom to share — or why SOPA is a bad idea