In anticipation of the Academy Awards ceremony last week, Belarusian TV viewers were treated to some previous Oscar-awarded movies. One of the films that Belarus’ National State Television decided to air was last year’s best picture The Hurt Locker. However, the channel managers apparently didn’t go through all the proper licensing channels, electing to show a copy that had been downloaded from the BitTorrent site Interfilm.ru instead.
Belarus TV viewers who saw The Hurt Locker on TV last Sunday noticed something odd. In the middle of all the action, near the end of the movie, a female voice-over interrupted with the following announcement:
“This release is created exclusively for interfilm.ru.”
Although these words may not have rung a bell with all viewers, those who use BitTorrent know Interfilm.ru as a prominent BitTorrent tracker. The site was raided in 2009 after the MPAA applied pressure on the Russian authorities, and it is now at the center of copyright infringement claim which runs to a staggering $1.25 billion.
It is not uncommon for this voice-over message to appear in movie torrents uploaded to Interfilm, but it is quite unusual for National State Television to broadcast them.
The message was first picked up by a Belarusian blogger who posted it on his website, from where it spread to several major news outlets including Lenta.ru. National State Television, who allegedly aired the pirated copy of The Hurt Locker, have yet to respond to the mishap.
It is of course painful that this slip-up should happen during the Academy Award ceremony, and that it references the first ever BitTorrent site to be raided in Russia. The Hurt Locker makers, who sued thousands of BitTorrent users in the United States last year, will obviously be upset at this blatant act of copyright infringement.
A DVD copy of The Hurt Locker leaked online in January 2009, several months before the official release. In the months that followed pirated copies were downloaded by millions of people, and now it also has the dubious honor of being the first ‘torrented’ movie to appear on national television.
Update: A spokeswoman for Belarus’ National State television said that proper licenses for the film were acquired through the Russian company GALA Media. The phrase mentioning Interfilm.ru could be a “technical error”, she noted.