A Pirate's Life : Not for me.

The story so far: A copy of the upcoming X-Men spin-off 'Wolverine' gets put onto the internet in its unfinished state. Because this is the internet, it spreads like wildfire. Other copies get uploaded, it seems that everyone's talking about it and has an opinion.

Then a FoxNews columnist reviews the film in its non-finished form with incomplete VFX and sound (link to article on WorstPreviews). Possibly with the best of intentions - he says in the article (which has since been removed from the FoxNews site) that 20th Century Fox should have no concerns over the leak because the film is so good.

But within that, he's endorsing the series of events which led to him being able to see it. Not only that, he's significantly denying the contribution that possibly hundreds of VFX artists whose work had yet to go into a full cut of the film. He's denying the impact that a full sound tracklay and mix will have on the film.  And he's saying that it's fine for people to go out and download films before they've even opened.

Now whatever your views on current definitions of piracy (there are certainly business lessons to be learnt from how the release of media can encourage purchases once a passion for a product has been built), this is a very bad thing to start legitimising. A lot of people who've worked in a very creative capacity (directors, cinematographers, editors, actors) on a film can be very insecure about the part they've played and will try to minimise the number of people who'll see it before a certain stage. Endorsing leaks would take that decision out of their hands and invite judgement before the product looks anything like it would otherwise have ended up as, and may even influence the rest of the post-production process and distribution. The 'released' version would doubtless be compared to the leaked version(s) without any understanding of the processes which took them from A to B to C.

Of course there are test screenings. Of course films change massively from script to production to edit.  But these are all controlled by a much much smaller number of people. Whether these people are the best people for the film is often a subject of debate amongst the fans.... but any editor will tell you how having more than a couple of key decision makers commenting on a cut can often lead to as many different opinions as there are people in the room. Imagine that multiplied on a global level. Not only is there never a way to please everyone, but any film which aspires to do so will often lead to utter blandness on screen.

So let us hope that this doesn't become a trend. News sites indicate that the FBI is following the trail in an attempt to catch the origin of the Wolverine leak, and whoever did it is certain to never work in the film industry again.  And if nothing else, the rest of us have been reminded that once out, these things can spread really quickly - irrespective of any original intention.