Piracy Threat Casts a Pall Over Cannes Festivities

Fear stalks the Croisette as movie execs mull the ransom demand that Disney faced recently over a hacked copy of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and ask: who’s next for the gangplank?

One leading distributor didn’t want to even discuss the issue that first reared its head with the Netflix “Orange Is the New Black” hack, stating he’d been advised by his technology experts “not to get into a conversation about how we prevent them hacking into our systems because all it does is put your head above the parapet and [the hackers] try and shoot you down.”

Industry leaders are assessing the changing nature of the threat. “The pirates are now looking at a whole other revenue stream, which is extortion,” Jean Prewitt, CEO of the Independent Film and Television Alliance, said. “Now there are people who think they can get money directly from you — it’s shifted the equation in terms of piracy.”

Independent movies run the same risks as those from the studios, she says. “The independents can’t write the same checks Disney can but their films can be just as high-profile and have the same potential audience. You have to assume everyone who has something with high visibility could be a victim.”

It is a war and the challenge is to stay one step ahead. “We’re locked in an arms race with commercial pirates who want to build businesses using content they didn’t create and don’t own, but are happy to steal,” said Stan McCoy, president and managing director in Europe, Middle East, and Africa at the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

“As technology develops, creators are using it, but the criminals are too, to set up pirate business models. The problem is with us over the long term, but that’s no need to lose heart.”

The ransomware infections that hit hospitals and other organizations worldwide recently is also a threat for film companies. “We have backups of backups of our files and in a…

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