Is 'Avatar' really immune from piracy?

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Is 'Avatar' really immune from piracy?

Wed Jan 06, 2010 @ 10:46AM PST

By Eriq Gardner and Matthew Belloni

Comic_avatar-600x400 "Avatar" director James Cameron has frequently touted 3D filmmaking as the industry's best hope for combating piracy.

He's followed others in the industry, such as DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was one of the first to posit that one can't camcord 3D cinema.

Is it really true? Can 3D glasses accomplish what no industry lawyer has been able to do in holding back the pirates?

Cameron may be a visionary, but we're betting he's dead wrong here.

According to a story in the UK's The Times, "Avatar" was illegally downloaded almost one million times within seven days of its release—a record. By comparison, "New Moon" was pirated 610,000 times in the same time period. Word that "Avatar" is an underground hit follows overlooked news that "Avatar" leaked onto file-sharing websites a few days before it hit theaters.

The film is doing amazing boxoffice anyway. And if there was ever a poster child for the argument that online pirates merely check out "event" films for free before going to theaters for the real experience, this would be it. But we're sure that 20th Century Fox has high hopes for the future DVD release of the film, which could be hampered by rampant filesharing.

A few months ago, a UK scientist examined the question of whether 3D films are immune to piracy. He proposed that future pirates might eventually attach a 3D glasses-type filter to their camcorders or set up two cameras in the theater so as to recreate the 3D experience at home.

3-d-glasses-polarization-newWith 3D televisions poised to stampede the market in 2010, the prospect of splashy new hardware demanding for content could give rise to a wave of 3D piracy in the very near future.

In fact, we'll go out on a limb and predict that the introduction of 3D will only escalate the piracy/copyright battles, as studios refine their technology with DRM, pirates respond, and court battles ensue.

One of these days, we bet we'll be reporting that someone is claiming 3D glasses as a copyright circumvention device.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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