Snowpiercer Delayed Distribution Driving Up Piracy & Malware

by Chris Silver Smith

I’ve been waiting quite some time for the SF flick, Snowpiercer, to appear in U.S. theatres or for the DVD to be available. Apparently, I’m not alone. I noticed this week that if you search for “snowpiercer download”, you can find about 11 DMCA takedown notices removing 21 results from the listings in Google:

Snowpiercer DMCA and piracy in Google search results - Snowpiercer Download

Snowpiercer, is based on a graphic novel from France named Le Transperceneige,” authored by Jacques Lob and Benjamin Legrand, and illustrated by Jean-Marc Rochette. The novel set in a dystopian future where there was apparently some failed attempt to halt global warming that instead resulted in a new Ice Age that kills off all life on Earth except for a group that lives on a train called “Snow Piercer”, which runs around the planet, powered by some sort of perpetual-motion engine. Over time, a class-segregated society develops on the ever-zooming railroad, and the story focuses upon how a struggles emerges between the rich/advantaged who live at the front of the train versus the poor at the back.

The concept sounds fairly unbelievable, but the visuals in the trailer along with a compelling cast that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris have made me want to see it. The kookiness of the concept also attracts me to it!

Since I frequently work along with various attorneys on reputation management cases, I’m accustomed to seeing takedown notices at the bottom of search results — Google and Bing have very kindly taken down materials that can be proven to be defamatory or otherwise illegal, such as in the case of copyright infringements covered by DMCA. But, I don’t recall running across a search results page with quite so many notices at once.

It’s also interesting that there appears to be no official website for the film as of yet — and provision of one would further displace secondary pirate sites, most likely, rendering them marginally less visible to consumers.

What’s further interesting about this is that I think the slowness to distribute in the U.S. has perhaps driven a lot more piracy and copyright infringement than it needed to. Many SciFi film buffs and comic book enthusiasts are interested in viewing the film, and are frustrated to be unable to get access (I count myself in this set). The movie was apparently released in South Korea, and now perhaps in Thailand and France as well, but not in the U.S.. Perhaps the delay has been due to a disagreement between the director, Bong Jun-hu and the film studio operated by the Weinstein brothers. Reportedly, the director and film buffs have expressed upset that the Weinsteins plan to cut up to 20 minutes of the film in order to speed up the pacing. My immediate thought as a cynical marketer is that the Weinsteins might’ve manipulated this entire controversy to drive up overall revenues — tons of moviegoers are likely to turn out to see the film in the U.S., and then many fans would be even more likely to purchase an eventual “original director’s cut” of the film. Of course, I’m educated enough about films and marketing to know that the Weinsteins might be merely focusing upon the fact that films that stick closer to a 1.5 hour length are perhaps more successful — if a film is too long it can affect theatre audience turnover. But, the film is thus far listed at 1 hr, 26 minutes, so if it were cut by 20 minutes it would risk being dissatisfyingly short I believe.

Pirates and hackers have taken notice of the pent-up demand, and have used it to try to make a quick buck in the meantime. Quite a number of the sites that have been out there that promise a Snowpiercer download for free have used some pirated copy of the video as bait to dangle before unwitting consumers — the trick is that in order to get the film you have to opt into their “download software” which is likely to infect your computer with adware and malware, compromising your security.

From a business sense, I’m wondering if all of this approach the film studio is taking — delaying distribution in the U.S., dangling a controversy about edits, and legally battling with pirates and hackers — if all of this is more profitable that a more straightforward approach. Surely there must be some profits lost to pirates cost by the delay to distribute, and there must be some increased costs associated with the apparent legal activities that must be going on in fighting the copyright infringements.

Would it have been more profitable or even a break-even to merely distribute quicker, without the additional, controversial editing?


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