An analysis of security vulnerabilities in the movie production and distribution process

Simon Byers, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Eric Cronin, Dave Korman, Patrick McDaniel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


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. This research attempts to determine the source of unauthorized copies by studying the availability and characteristics of recent popular movies in file sharing networks. A data set of 312 popular movies was developed and one or more samples of 183 of these movies was located on file sharing networks, for a total of 285 movie samples. Seventy-seven percent of these samples appear to have been leaked by industry insiders. Most of the 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 this 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. A brief analysis of the movie production and distribution process was performed and potential security vulnerabilities were identified that may lead to unauthorized copies becoming available to those who may wish to redistribute them. Finally, recommendations are offered for reducing security vulnerabilities in the movie production and distribution process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-644
Number of pages26
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Aug 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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