By Matthew Belloni
Isn't stealing movies cool and fun? Ashton Kutcher wants you to think so. He's announced that he's going to "pirate" part of his new comedy "Killers" at tonight's premiere and put it online days before the film hits theaters. How awesome is that?
Probably not so awesome for anyone who works in the worldwide antipiracy community. Or the people who have been laid off recently from the studio home video divisions because sales have plummeted in part due to rampant online theft. In fact, the "Killers" co-star probably didn't consider his choice of words before he tweeted last week that he'll be "going live 2 the web & pirating the 1st 10 min of Killers from the premiere." He followed that by telling
Ellen DeGeneres that, "I like the movie so much that I'm going to show it online, on the web; I'm going to pirate the first 13 minutes of the movie."
Sure, it's not really piracy. The free preview is a transparent marketing stunt by Lionsgate, the studio behind the film, which has decided to hide the movie from critics and instead put the first few minutes in front of its target audience during the run-up to its release. To that end, they've enlisted the movie's co-star, a genuine Internet phenomenon, to help promote that effort.
That's fine, we hope the strategy works for them. After all, if even half of Kutcher's 5 million Twitter followers like what they see and pay to attend the full movie, that's an extra $17.5 million in the bank (assuming an average ticket price of about $7).
But did Kutcher really have to say he's "pirating" the movie? Considering the intellectual property industries (including Hollywood studios like Lionsgate) spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on antipiracy measures targeting the exact kind of casual theft Kutcher seems to be endorsing, perhaps he could have just said Lionsgate is offering a "free preview." But "pirating" no doubt sounded cooler and more renegade. Ashton's not a shameless actor plugging a movie, he's an unauthorized hacker giving you a taste of something you're not supposed to see, wink wink.
The ultimate irony, of course, would be if the full version of "Killers" leaks before it hits theaters, thus allowing millions of real pirates to potentially hurt the movie's bottom line. If that happens, Kutcher might think twice next time about glamorizing theft in a cynical attempt to sell his movie.