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Paramount Shrugs Off ‘Iron Man 2’ Leak

Paramount’s release of Iron Man 2 in all overseas markets last week in order to drum up big business before the World Cup starts to dominate the pop culture landscape was a success. So far, the much anticipated sequel has grossed over $120 million in ticket sales worldwide. The only hitch in Paramount’s plan has been the flood of leaked copies of the film that are now being downloaded, pirated and viewed on streaming sites. It’s a familiar story by now, after Fox went through the same ordeal a year ago with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, when an unfinished work print of the film leaked online. Fox’s reaction was severe. At the height of the much ballyhooed controversy the studio released a statement that 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 in the past. The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime.

In the aftermath, Fox News film critic Roger Friedman was fired for reviewing the leaked version and Gilberto Sanchez,  the man connected with uploading the movie to the sharing site Megaupload was arrested in December. The case is still pending. Since the Wolverine leak, the studio’s position on internet piracy has been united against it. Each of the major studios, including Paramount, have banded together to fight the battle, most recently losing a landmark case in federal court against the Austrailian internet service provider iinet.

That case may prove to have been a turning point in the studios strategy in dealing with internet piracy. In stark contrast to the intense hand wringing by Fox regarding the Wolverine leak, Paramount has seemed borderline apathetic. The studio released a statement that said:

This sort of theft is intensely disrespectful and damaging to those who pour their creativity and capital into movies and television. It is time responsible governments put an end to it.

The turnaround that is evident in Paramount’s reaction seems to have less to do with their feelings about internet piracy than with the fact that the Wolverine case proved that even if a movie gets leaked, it will have little impact on the box office gross. Wolverine opened well above expectations, taking in over $87 million in its first weekend. Analysts have predicted that Iron Man 2 will have the biggest opening of all time, possibly taking in over $150 million when it opens this weekend. With the level of advance excitement and audience interest, coupled with Robert Downey Jr.‘s clout at the multiplex, the leak is sure to be a quickly forgotten footnote.

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