High Number Of Oscar Screeners Hit Pirate Sites

"Why is papa so sad?" "Because he's been downloaded 500,000 times without getting paid for it."

“Why is papa so sad?” “Because he’s been downloaded 500,000 times without getting paid for it.”

While you and I have had to pay to see all this year’s possible Oscar contenders (some of which haven’t even been released outside of NYC and L.A. yet), members of the various nominating guilds have been sitting at home and watching these films for free on screeners provided by the studios. And even though the movie industry tries to keep these screeners from getting out, a record number of them are readily available through pirate torrent sites.

Among those looking to score pirated copies of the year’s biggest titles while they’re still in theaters, these screeners are a prize find, as they are significantly better than some version shot on a Handycam in a movie theater.

They often come with watermarks or other identifiers to discourage sharing and to help the studios’ anti-piracy police in tracking down the source of the leaked screeners.

Now TorrentFreak reports that not only are there a large number of torrents available for many of this year’s Oscar contenders, and some of them appear to be free of watermarks.

For example, one can find a screener version of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies that has had the studio watermarks scrubbed before it was made available. In its first 24 hours online, at least 500,000 users downloaded the movie, which has made more than $225 million in the U.S. and more than $725 million worldwide since opening in mid-December.

TorrentFreak also looked at pirated screeners available for several other Oscar favorites, including Birdman, The Imitation Game, Selma, American Sniper, Unbroken, Night Crawler, Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes — all of which can be found now on various torrent sites.

So how are these movies getting out there when leakers face the threat of being exiled by the studios to a small MGM-owned island off the coast of Djibouti?

It’s not known which roommate of which member of which guild stole his friend’s DVDs and shared them with the world, but TorrentFreak reports that nearly all of the above screeners (with the exception of The Hobbit and Big Hero 6) originated from the same source.

Lending credence to the notion that this is some amateur who decided to share this content with the world, TorrentFreak says that the encoding of the files being shared via BitTorrent is “choppy,” implying that it’s an inexperienced pirate who ripped these files.

I once briefly had a roommate who was in one of these guilds. He was a horrible person who I hope to never see again, but he was very free and easy with sharing his screeners of Oscar contenders. If he’s at all representative of the level of care given to these coveted movies, it’s surprising that there aren’t more screeners available.