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The Hurt Lock-Up

Posted by Ty Burr  May 13, 2010 10:56 AM

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the-hurt-locker.jpgYou know that copy of "The Hurt Locker" you downloaded off Piratebay.org? You may end up paying for it in more ways than one. Voltage Pictures, the producers of the film, are joining forces with the US Copyright Group to file suit against tens of thousands of people who've illegally BitTorrented the film onto their hard drives. The USCG is a DC-based organization founded, so its website says, by intellectual property lawyers. I'm guessing there's some heavy studio backing involved. Right now might be a good time for you to find a lawyer as well.

One meme making the rounds is that Internet piracy is to blame for the Best Picture winner taking in only $16 million during its theatrical release. If that's a factor -- which is conceivable, although college kids with Limewire don't strike me as this small, smart film's target demo -- it's a lesser one than Summit Entertainment's shocking ineptness at getting "Hurt Locker" into US theaters when interest was at its peak. From mid-November until early March, during the period when Kathryn Bigelow's little war flick was landing on one after another Best of 2009 list and critics' awards tally, you couldn't find the movie in a theater. I know, because I fielded dozens of emails from readers desperate to see it. That's three and a half months of box office that Summit left on the ground while the company tended to its cash cow, the "Twilight" series.

Gee, do you think that might have had anything to do with driving audiences to the Internet? For whatever reasons (and I'm guessing previously contracted on-demand and DVD availability windows had a lot to do with it), Summit said, look, we have this really great movie that everyone loves, but we won't let you see it. Meanwhile, over there in the alley was a truck unloading copies for free. I bet what many people would do in such a situation isn't going to be the same as what existing copyright law (or garden-variety ethics, take your pick) says they should do. The larger lessons are that the laws of supply and demand are extremely mutable in the Internet age and that if copyright holders don't want to get badly skunked, they need to think ahead of the curve. But don't tell that to Summit: They're too busy putting out junk like "Furry Vengeance" and "Letters to Juliet" to concern themselves with marketing a good movie to audiences willing to pay for it.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

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Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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