Pirates 5 Is Being Held for Ransom by Actual Pirates – Vanity Fair
Here’s a little bit of art imitating life: hackers have obtained Disney’s upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and are demanding the studio pay a ransom in order to get it back, Deadline reports. The very 2017 touch is that the hackers would like that ransom to be paid in Bitcoin. So, what will the studio do now that one of its most lucrative franchises is in danger of being dropped well before its May 26 release date? If the past is any indication—nothing, really.
Disney boss Bob Iger revealed news of the hacking to employees during an ABC town hall meeting on Monday, though he kept mum on exactly which film was stolen. He also shared, per The Hollywood Reporter, that the hackers said they would release five minutes of the movie if they did not receive their ransom, followed by 20-minute footage drops. Disney will not pay the hackers, he confirmed, preferring instead to work with F.B.I. investigators to determine who is behind the theft. Representatives for Disney have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Hacking of a major film or TV property is nothing new in the digital age. Just last month, hackers who use the alias the Dark Overlord pilfered the entirety of Season 5 of Orange Is the New Black, demanding an unspecified ransom from Netflix. When the streaming platform didn’t pay up, the hackers released the first episode, then allegedly released the entire season on torrenting site the Pirate Bay. OITNB’s next season is set to hit Netflix on June 6. The great Sony hack of 2014 still haunts studios and talent agencies in Hollywood as well.
That said, the problem may be getting worse. A lengthy report in The Hollywood Reporter shows that numerous agencies have been targeted by hackers over the last six months. “The frequency of the attacks has overwhelmed the F.B.I.’s Los Angeles field office, which has been unable to properly investigate all of them,” T.H.R. notes. Industry insiders told the trade that the crime-fighting organization has advised agencies to cough up ransoms when they can, amounts that usually don’t exceed $80,000. A spokesperson for the F.B.I. later said, however, that the organization would never encourage anyone to pay ransom. The report shows that the Dark Overlord also managed to steal series like NCIS: Los Angeles, Portlandia, and New Girl.
Films have also been stolen from studios before. During the Sony hack, titles like Fury, Annie, and Mr. Turner were all ripped and posted on the Pirate Bay before hitting theaters. Fury was an online hit, in a way, downloaded by 888,000 unique I.P. addresses—making it the second-most popular movie being downloaded at the time, per Variety.
Of course, none of those movies have the same global recognition as the upcoming Pirates film. Disney’s staunch resolution against paying the ransom shows that the studio is apparently not too worried about the film sneaking online before its big release date. Perhaps Disney is confident that people will want to see the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow on the big screen after all; it’s probably also hopeful that a resolute stance against paying hackers will dissuade future thieves from demanding a ransom. Of course, this stance won’t stop hackers forever (hacking: it’s what they do!), but perhaps it will push them to aim for a smaller target—instead of the biggest movie studio in the world.