This post was originally published on Medium, by Custos Tech’s Lead Content Protection Consultant, Jon Roth.

Iarla Flynn, Head of Public Policy at Google, once famously said that “online piracy is primarily an availability and a pricing problem.”

Although there are myriad complex issues influencing the potential (read: probable) piracy of a movie, this axiom remains the essential issue — people decide to pirate movies when they are not able or willing to pay for a legal copy.

What someone is willing to pay to watch your movie differs from person to person.

You should view the potential audiences of your film on a spectrum based on their propensity for piracy.

On the one end of the spectrum you have the super fans:

  • These guys will never pirate your movie, and will be willing to pay just about anything to see it.
  • If you don’t already have a large fan base this might just be your parents and significant other.

On the other end of the spectrum are the always-pirates:

  • These individuals will never be willing to buy a legal copy of your movie.
  • These could be weird hacker types standing up for what they consider lofty ideals, or even just college students or less privileged individuals who just really don’t have any cash to spare but are genuine fans of your work.
  • It could even be so mundane as people from countries where there are just no legal copy available.

People in these two extremes won’t be shifted by anything you do.

So what you want to focus on is the middle of the spectrum — the people who will choose between paying you or pirating your movie based on the availability and pricing.

Pricing is a problem — you are not going to beat a free pirated movie.

In the past, pirating was difficult and you had to have some technical experience to muster it, but these days the user experience of piracy offerings have sometimes even surpassed the legal alternative.

You want to focus on availability.

If the legal copy is the only copy that’s available, that’s great!

If there is a pirate copy available online though, you need to fight back — and fight back you can.

When you get that dreaded message from Screener Copy that your movie has been pirated, you need to have your strategy ready to protect your well-earned revenue.

The nice thing about Screener Copy’s content leak alerts is that it can detect that your movie is pirated even before it lands on one of the popular pirate sites — this gives you time to act.

Your anti-piracy strategy should be two-pronged:

  1. First, you need to make sure anyone that wants to pay for your movie has that option. We have had some of our clients who have managed to push forward their release dates by a week, which makes a massive difference. This is drastic, but you can get good results by doing something as simple as selling your movie on a VOD platform in territories your distribution deals are not servicing yet. Your biggest fan might be sitting in Ethiopia or Bhutan, completely unserved.
  2. Secondly, you need to make the legal copy easier to find than the pirated copy. People are lazy — when last did you click to the second page on Google to find a result?

If someone searches for ‘[your movie] watch online,’ what do they get? Only pirate links?

You need to make sure that at least the first two pages of any search for your movie is flooded with links to legal means of accessing your movie.

This is all about what’s called Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.

Natasha Nel, Head of Marketing at Custos Tech, explains the strategies you can use to flood Google with non-piracy related linkage in this blog post:


A few of the tactics Tash recommends include:

  • Create a pitchlist of 10–20 relevant industry publications and/or influencers, then reach about to them about a feature.
  • Provide each of the contacts on your pitchlist of publications and influencers with snippets of copy, video, or graphics you think would be of interest to the people who follow them on social media.
  • Similarly, if your content is available on a streaming network like Netflix or Showmax, contact their Content Team about writing a blog post and social media punt or two to promote it.
  • On top of pushing your content to any and all existing social channels for your movie, post anything you produce to your own / your company/brand’s Google+ profile. (Yes, really.)

Click through to read the rest.


The bottom line: piracy of a pre-release copy of a movie will cost you around 20% of lifetime income for a project.

While this two pronged strategy can significantly reduce this, the best way to protect yourself is to ALWAYS use secure distribution platforms to send your screeners.

Get in touch with me to make that happen: +27 21 808 9505 or [email protected]