In what appears to be a burgeoning trend as of late, hackers have stolen a feature film from Disney and are holding their copy ransom unless the studio pays up. This time, the bad news comes with at least a little flavoring of irony, with the pirates plundering what Deadline reports is a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth film in the mega-franchise due out just over a week from now on May 26th.
It’s a similar situation to what we saw just a few weeks ago when hackers stole the new season of Orange is the New Black and demanded Netflix pay them to keep it off torrent sites (so far there’s no confirmation it’s the same group). Netflix didn’t budge and the season was released online, and it looks like Disney may be heading down the same path. There’s a pretty smart policy in place among these companies not to negotiate with digital terrorists, lest giving in make them an even larger target going forward. So expect Pirates 5 to pop up online at any moment, if it hasn’t already.
Once again, this isn’t exactly the most ingenious of plans, as these hacker groups will almost certainly never get paid, and so far, these leaks seem like they won’t have any significant impact on the bottom line of these mega-corps. The Orange is the New Black leak was at least a long while before the season came out. This Pirates leak is literally eleven days before the film begins Thursday previews. In other words, who cares?
Piracy is certainly an irritant in cases like these, but like I said back when the OITNB drama was unfolding, torrenting has lost some of its teeth as of late. Yes, going to a movie in theaters is one of the more exhausting media experiences still left in society, but the kinds of people who are willing to pay money to see Johnny Depp stumble his way through a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie in theaters are probably not the type to download a stolen copy of it right before it comes out. And like all movies, Pirates would appear on torrent sites regardless practically the day of its release, so the hackers seem to be really over-estimating their impact here.
Pirates 5's scariest addition: CGI Young Johnny Depp
Still, I will say that this trend is starting to get a little worrisome. Previously, what we’ve seen from “leaked" films or shows are rogue screeners or rough cuts that are put online early by some rogue critic or employee. This and the Orange is the New Black leak appear to be more along the lines of hackers making their way directly through the digital security of these companies and lifting their files directly. That’s a much more serious, dangerous intrusion. So while it may not ding the profits of Disney or Netflix for these specific features, there’s a larger question of security here, and if that’s not addressed this could spiral into a larger problem.
Similarly, this could also be a problem if the “right” shows and movies are targeted in the future. Orange is the New Black may have its twists and turns, but it’s not exactly a show that can be totally decimated by spoilers. Similarly, Pirates may be a blockbuster franchise, but it’s not the kind of series that will be mangled by the ending spilling onto the internet (Jack kills undead fish-villain, probably). But that might not be the case if a different show or film ends up pilfered. I can imagine the internet melting down if future seasons of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones were leaked in full before they aired, and it’s easy to imagine some scenario where say, Wonder Woman was leaked and bad early pirate buzz sinks the already fragile superhero project before it arrives. Pirates is probably going to perform however it performs either way. Audience are either sick of Jack Sparrow or they can’t get enough of him at this point, and this leak won’t change that. But again, with the right property, this could be a huge issue.
These types of hackers are going to continue doing stuff like this just for fun, even if none of them ever end up getting paid for it. That’s just how these communities work. But these companies really need to understand how these thefts are occurring and lock them down before something even worse happens, which seems like an increasingly likely probability the longer this goes on.