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Bootleg movies ruin the fun

Wouldn’t it be great if you could see a Star Wars movie for free and months before it comes to the theaters? At first this might seem like a great proposition, but the ramifications of it are quite large.

One of the people that saw Attack of the Clones about two months before it made its way to the movie theatres was Harry Knowles, a writer for the Web site The person that supposedly supplied him with the prerelease version of the movie, still lacking major parts of special effects, was charged last week with 13 felonies in connection with the theft of what Lucasfilm estimates to be material worth $450,000, including the unfinished version of the movie.

The irony of this is that after the bad reviews, most newspapers gave Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the appetite for another Star Wars movie, at least by the press, was low. After Knowles published his very favorable review on his Web site, claiming he had met with an anonymous source in a hotel room and had seen a cut of the movie, the media became interested again.

Various sources, including Knowles himself, questioned if this “leaked” version might have been part of a master plan orchestrated by Lucasfilm to get free publicity for the movie. After the arrest, this does not seem likely.

Of course this problem is not exactly new. Fans and media have been trying to find out what a new movie is about before its release since the earliest days of Hollywood. When the entire first draft script of Star Trek: Generations was posted online mere hours after Paramount studios had received it by the writers, the fun stopped.

What amazes me is that somebody would want to see such a cut or read an entire script. Why would anybody ruin the fun of seeing the movie in theaters along with friends and watch a bootlegged version instead on a tiny TV or computer? Granted, it is free, but since a major part of Star Wars is special effects, such a version could hardly be as much fun as the final version of the movie.

Especially because the Star Wars series is set up to be seen in installments, the most fun of the movies comes by discussing them with friends. It is fun to try to find out what is in store, but when it becomes illegal that is where the fun stops and jail time is in order.

The effort that goes into making a movie today is immense. Several hundred people work for up to five years to make a movie possible. Somebody who leaks information about a movie not only ruins the movie-going experience but commits a crime because most studios have contracts that are supposed to prevent such thing. They also undermines the creativity of everybody that works on the movie.

If this seems blown out of proportion, imagine a friend handing in your term paper before you had a chance to finish it. Even if you could convince your professor that you really wanted to add or improve things, the damage would probably be irreversible because he had already read it and made up his mind about your effort. Somebody who had worked for several years on a movie that is about two hours long would probably feel even more betrayed.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental