3D, Simultaneous Release Don't Prevent Piracy, Paramount COO Says

Consumer Awareness, Technology Needed in Fight, Huntsberry Tells CineAsia

HONG KONG – 3D is useless in the fight against online piracy, and simultaneous release online is not a tactic to be adopted to tackle a problem shared by the international film community, Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry told The Hollywood Reporter at the second day of the CineAsia convention.

“It’s a big problem in every country in the world. Anybody with internet connection can easily access pirated content. When it was a hardware problem, then it was business. But in an Internet world, everybody is equal,” Huntsberry said, unwilling to single out any one country for the proliferation of online piracy.  

Huntsberry presented an overview of the current state of online piracy at the convention, demonstrating how current releases from Hollywood or Bollywood can be viewed within five computer mouse clicks from anywhere in the world. 

He also showed that stereoscopic 3D, seen as a means to attract viewers into cinemas, has also not proved a solution for online piracy. A lens can be fitted in front of a pirate's camera to take out the second layer and to offset the 3D effects. The pirated 2D copy is then released online. 

Neither is releasing films online during theatrical dates the answer. “If you release a product simultaneously, you are making a very good copy that can be stolen and made available during the theatrical window,” Huntsberry said in an interview. For consumer demand online, “we’ve made the product available in theaters. The studios today had made a decision that the theatrical window is exclusive, and that they would make the product available on DVD and online after that. To move the online release date up into the theatrical window would only expose the theatrical window to a high-quality copy of the movie being available much earlier.”

Online piracy has escalated from amateur file-sharing to sophisticated link websites and cyberlockers storing large number of stolen content that obscured their illegal roots from consumers and big-name advertisers.  Consumers who use such websites, suspected to be controlled by organized crime, and which have made millions for their illegal operators, require subscription fees that also expose the user's name, credit card number, and address to organized crime, Huntsberry pointed out.

Graduated response, the approach used to warn individual illegal downloaders, was too costly and proved useless against cyberlocker sites. Huntsberry believes that site blocking, which required the cooperation of Internet Service Providers, is the more effective tactic to fight cyberlockers.

He identified a four-pronged strategy of consumer awareness, fine-tuning business models, technology and legislation to fight online piracy. However, a campaign to raise consumer awareness on online piracy might take decades, which he likened to anti-smoking or drunk driving.  

“It’s a matter of legislation in each country, that each country recognize the tremendous threat on taxes, jobs, and local industry. Every country has an IP industry, so it’s not isolated,” he said.  

“We have to come at it through consumer awareness, education, legislation and technology. There is no single solution.”