Analysis of Security Vulnerabilities in the Movie Production and Distribution Process


Unauthorized copying of movies is a major concern for the motion picture industry. While unauthorized copies of movies have been distributed via portable physical media for some time, low-cost, high-bandwidth Internet connections and peer-to-peer file sharing networks provide highly efficient distribution media. Many movies are showing up on file sharing networks shortly after, and in some cases prior to, theatrical release. It has been argued that the availability of unauthorized copies directly affects theater attendance and DVD sales, and hence represents a major financial threat to the movie industry. Our research attempts to determine the source of unauthorized copies by studying the availability and characteristics of recent popular movies in file sharing networks. We developed a data set of 312 popular movies and located one or more samples of 183 of these movies on file sharing networks, for a total of 285 movie samples. 77% of these samples appear to have been leaked by industry insiders. Most of our samples appeared on file sharing networks prior to their official consumer DVD release date. Indeed, of the movies that had been released on DVD as of the time of our study, only 5% first appeared after their DVD release date on a web site that indexes file sharing networks, indicating that consumer DVD copying currently represents a relatively minor factor compared with insider leaks. We perform a brief analysis of the movie production and distribution process and identify potential security vulnerabilities that may lead to unauthorized copies becoming available to those who may wish to redistribute them. Finally, we offer recommendations for reducing security vulnerabilities in the movie production and distribution process.


Simon Byers, Lorrie Cranor, Eric Cronin, Dave Kormann, and Patrick McDaniel. Analysis of Security Vulnerabilities in the Movie Production and Distribution Process. In Proceedings of the 2003 ACM Workshop on Digital Rights Management, October 27, 2003, Washington, DC. [Paper also presented at The 31st Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy, September 19-21, 2003, Arlington, VA.]

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See also a set of screenshots showing some of the markings indicative of unauthorized copies of movies.

Lorrie Faith Cranor