According to anti-piracy outfits the world over, people rarely leak movies or TV shows for anything other than profit. While that statement is almost certainly untrue, a worrying trend in 2017 is damaging the image of piracy further, if that was even possible.
We’re talking about obtaining copyrighted content by a variety of means and then holding studios and distributors to ransom. Pay a considerable sum or face your content being leaked online, content owners are increasingly being told.
The practice got much publicity last month when TheDarkOverlord (TDO) hacking entity leaked an episode of Orange is The New Black after Netflix and associated companies failed to pay a bitcoin ransom.
When that little taster failed to illicit the required monetary response, TDO leaked another nine episodes. Again, no payment was forthcoming. More leaks targeting separate companies were hinted at but thus far, none have appeared.
But this week, with content producers and indeed the FBI still trying to work out what TDO’s next move might be, another movie ‘kidnapping’ event hit the headlines.
An as-yet unidentified group informed Disney that it had obtained a pre-release copy of the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean 5. Like Netflix, Disney refused to pay, and so far there have been no repercussions.
With this new type of crime an apparently growing trend, over in India a similar event has been playing out. On the exact same day that TDO leaked the first episode of Orange is The New Black, movie company Arka Mediaworks Entertainment Ltd received an unwanted call.
Someone posing as a “film anti-piracy activist” told the company that a pirated copy of the movie ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’ had been obtained and if a ransom wasn’t paid, a leak onto the Internet would be inevitable.
Any high-quality leak would’ve been a significant event. Baahubali 2 is currently taking India by storm and has already broken several box office records, both at home and overseas. Authorities have already arrested at least 16 people involved in attempted piracy.
According to India.com, following the call Arka Mediaworks immediately involved the police, who advised the company to engage the ‘kidnappers’ in dialog to obtain proof that they had the movie in question.
That was delivered in the form of a high-definition sample of the movie, a move that was to mark the beginning of the end for those attempting to extort Arka Mediaworks.
It’s unclear whether those who sent the sample were aware, but the movie was forensically or otherwise marked, something which allowed police and investigators to track the copy back to a specific theater. However, this case has an interesting twist.
In most instances when movies are tracked in this manner, it’s because a watermark identifying the location has been transferred to a ‘cam’ copy. However, in this case the original ‘pirate’ copy had been made digitally. This meant that someone had managed to get hold of the encryption key used to decrypt titles subject to digital distribution.
It’s unclear whether he was the one to supply the key, but shortly after the owner of the theater was arrested by police. This was followed by the arrest of the person who allegedly called Arka Mediaworks with the ransom demand. From there, police were led to other co-conspirators.
In total, six arrests were made, with two of the men already known to police. No strangers to piracy, they were arrested in 2015 for pirating Bahubali – The Beginning, the first installment of the movie series involved in the current ‘kidnapping’ plot.
While it’s clear that this plot in India was serious, it’s unlikely that TheDarkOverlord will be making similar rookie mistakes in its quest to extort Netflix in the US. Whether the Disney plot will maintain the same sort of high-security will also remain to be seen, but getting caught is very possible.
Back in March it was revealed that 20th Century Fox & Dreamworks had been blackmailed over a leak of the movie Boss Baby. In that case, a bitcoin ransom was paid, but it eventually led to the arrest of the alleged perpetrator.