While fanboys may be calling the leaked copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine karma for Fox suing Warner Bros. over the rights to Watchmen (a legal battle that at one point threatened to shelve the film rather than see it released), Fox is taking the incident very seriously.
According to the BBC, the studio has now called in the FBI to help figure out how a nearly complete copy of the film made it to the internet a month before its scheduled release in theaters. The FBI will join the MPAA in its ongoing investigation. Fox said the copy of the film was forensically marked, and finding the individual who leaked it online should be relatively quick and easy.
After making its way online, the film was reportedly downloaded several hundred thousand times by individuals around the world, and has been seen on sale at bootleg DVD sellers in major cities and other locations internationally.
Fox said that they have had the copy of the film removed from the internet, but copies can still be found.
On Wednesday, Fox released the following statement:
“Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on websites. It was without many effects and had missing scenes and temporary sound and music. We immediately contacted the appropriate legal authorities and had it removed. We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it. The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law -- the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts. The FBI and MPAA are also actively investigating the crime. We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning piracy and this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors and, above all, hurts fans of the film.”
Speaking to Variety, a Fox representative said, “The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law -- the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts and the last person who committed such a crime is still in jail.”
Genre films seem to be especially susceptible to online leaks, as Ang Lee’s Hulk was leaked online in 2003 two weeks before it opened in theaters, while Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was uploaded a day before the film was released in theaters. This is the first time a major film has been leaked online a month before its theatrical release, and as such, industry watchers will be keeping a keen eye on Wolverine's box office to make their case, whatever their case may be. If the film doesn't perform to expectations, the online leak will be blamed. If the film is a blockbuster, the online leak will be credited.
Also, from the BBC:
In 2007 director Eli Roth blamed an online leak of his horror film Hostel: Part II for reducing box office returns.
In an interview with MTV he claimed: "You could buy Hostel: Part II for a quarter in Mexico City. As a result, in a lot of countries where the piracy was bad, they just didn't even release it."
As other observers have pointed out, the version of the film that is online has been met with largely negative reviews and comments. Response from fansites has been mixed, with some declining to report on the leak altogether, some reviewing the film, and others, taking their own approach. This last is exemplified by Ain't it Cool News, a site which made its name from reporting on leaked film news and has reviewed films based on workprints in the past, has stated that it will not run any reviews of this film prior to its theatrical release, as any version of the film that was viewed and reviewed prior to the theatrical debut was acquired via illegal channels.
Finally, as reported previously, the leaked version of the film bears the name of Rising Sun Pictures, leading many to conclude that the workprint was leaked via the Australian special effects house. In response, RSP Chairman and co-founder Tony Clark released a statement saying: "From the reports we've had, the stolen material is a work in progress version of the film with many incomplete sections. As we worked on individual sequences within the film, neither RSP or its staff members have ever been in possession of a full-length version, so it would have been impossible for the movie to have been leaked from here.
"It's common practice for work in progress between us and the production to carry vendor watermarks and for these works in progress to be integrated into various edits of the film for screenings which would explain why our name appears."