Interview, The: Sony’s Piracy Problem

Shortly after Sony Pictures released “The Interview” on digital services December 24, high-quality copies of the movie turned up on multiple piracy sites — and it’s already been downloaded at least 330,000 times within 12 hours.

On Wednesday, the studio announced the launch of “The Interview” on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and its own website, SeetheInterview.com, for $5.99 rental or $14.99 purchase. That came ahead of Sony’s planned U.S. theatrical release of the film to more than 300 independent theaters on Christmas Day.

However, Sony’s digital release of the movie is currently available only in the U.S. As such, it’s unsurprising that “The Interview” was quickly pirated, particularly given worldwide interest in the movie after the devastating hack on SPE and allegations by U.S. government that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

Poached copies of “The Interview” had been downloaded at least 330,000 times as of 6 a.m. ET Thursday after being uploaded about 12 hours earlier, according to statistics published by major torrent-hosting sites.

The cyber-terrorists who attacked Sony stole copies of DVD screeners of four unreleased movies — including the studio’s “Annie” holiday release — and uploaded them to pirate sites, along with “Fury,” the war picture starring Brad Pitt. But until this week, legitimate copies of “The Interview” had not surfaced on pirate sites.

“The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a geopolitical satire centering on two American TV journalists enlisted by the CIA to kill North Korea’s leader.

Major U.S. theater chains dropped plans to show the film after hackers threatened terrorist attacks, leading Sony to previously pull all distribution. Then, Sony earlier this week reversed course with the digital-video partnerships and a limited theatrical run.

For Sony’s legal digital distribution of “The Interview,” no figures are available for rentals and purchases of the movie at this point. However, the film is listed as the No. 1 title in the Google Play store as of Thursday.