Infringement or not? A Sith anecdote

This is a true story with an unknown moral.

I was flying to Chicago for ALA (that is, this happened just under two weeks ago)–nonstop on American from San Jose, in coach, the 6;22 a.m. flight.

As the flight progressed, I noticed that the person one row ahead of me and to the left was watching a movie on their notebook computer (big, bright screen: impossible not to notice).

And that the movie was Star Wars Episode III

Which won’t be available on DVD for a while yet.

Infringement? Unclear.

What made it even more unclear is that there was a big white timing strip running over the picture about a third of the way down, obscuring part of the picture, with constantly changing information. That suggests that this was studio material.

So either it was “deep infringement”–but odd, since the overlay precludes offering it as anything but bootlegged material–or a legitimate screening copy being watched by someone connected with the studio.

The latter is certainly plausible: LucasFilms is, after all, a Bay Area operation.

My best guess is that it wasn’t bootlegged, but what do I know. (No, I didn’t watch enough of it to say anything about the movie; I wouldn’t have noticed it at all except that the notebook was at an angle that made it impossible to ignore. After musing about it for a minute or so, I went back to Asimov’s Science Fiction–I usually catch up with the three semi-major SF magazines when I’m traveling.)

No real moral; just an anecdote.

2 Responses to “Infringement or not? A Sith anecdote”

  1. Actually, it was a likely bootleg. There was, in fact, a workprint of Episode III — complete with that telltale timecode — that leaked online on 18 May 2005, the day before the film was released to theatres in the US.

  2. Luke’s probably right. The only alternative explanation that occurs to me is that it was one of various pre-release issues that are pressed for various purposes — for example, members of the Academy are eligible to receive non-retail editions (these usually have some obnoxious warnings of various sorts at the top or bottom of the screen), and various distributors and other industry-related parties will receive these sorts of prints in the scope of their business activities.