As the dust settles from an amazing San Diego Comic-Con, a new storm seems to be brewing with the emergence of leaked footage. Over the past 5 years, Comic-Con has been the place for studios to reveal exclusive footage or trailers for a ravenous Hall H crowd- often times a full year before the release of some films. And it’s well deserved since many of those fans have been patiently camping under the San Diego stars for the night previous. Even without the presence of Marvel, Sony, and Paramount, there was plenty to get excited about with Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Deadpool, and more. However, as pop culture continues to boom so does the technology to capture it all. Each year with more sophisticated capturing devices and with the proliferation of social media, they make it harder and harder to control leaked footage. Even though it’s explicitly communicated before, during and after panels, leaked footage seems to hit YouTube and anonymous sites within moments of airing. Some of the studios have chosen to respond to the pirated footage by releasing the official footage early as we saw with Suicide Squad yesterday. The Hollywood Reporter just posted a great piece on this very topic highlighting how it not only damages the relationship with San Diego Comic-Con but compromises the artistic decisions of the Director and the myriad of people involved. None of this is a surprise. The battle has been raging ever since the Avengers first assembled on stage in Hall H in 2010. The bigger question is what should we do now?
Ultimately, an artist should be able to choose when and where their art will be experienced. The blurred visuals and muffled sound of leaked footage is about the worst way to experience the work that literally costs millions of dollars and countless hours to produce. Plus, those fans that braved camping in line for 24+ hours absolutely deserve an exclusive look. And yet, despite the the warnings from CCI and studios, pirating continues. On one hand I understand. For better or for worst, we are living in a rapidly developing world that is being driven by social media. Clearly, technology is evolving at a pace in which values and principles can’t possbily catch up- forcing studios to either acquiesce to these cyber terrorists or just not bring footage to places like Comic-Con. Even though I am a technophile, in the end, I side with the artists. We should not only control our impulses while sitting in Hall H, we shouldn’t reward these pirateers with our time or clicks. I do think it works best when studios like Warner Bros releases their trailers just after it goes live in Hall H. Personally, I do not watch leaked footage on YouTube and if I was in the room witnessing pirating in process- I would report it.
This whole issue bleeds into many ethically grey areas since now anything that is public (or even private) seems to be up for being tweeted and Periscoped. For instance, the CW’s Supergirl pilot was mysteriously ‘leaked’ and there may have been some obligatory disapproval but hardly noticeable- leading to theorists to deduct that it was on purpose. The reality is that piracy won’t go away and in fact, will just get worst. A brave new world is here and won’t wait on any industry to catch up. Is the only solution for studios to just stop bringing footage they don’t want leaked? Is there anyway Comic-Con can truly control the Hall H environment? Should directors embrace the inevitable ‘wild west’ culture that technology will force upon us? Should CCI make everyone in line sign a NDA (nondisclosure agreement) before going in? Check phones at the door? Do you think leaked footage is ok to watch and to be discussed? What are your thoughts and what do you think is the future of Comic-Con?