Some small beans actor just pled guilty to spreading films like Black Swan on BitTorrent last year, before they were released in theaters. There's a few things worth writing about here.
First, the specific case of Black Swan is pretty good evidence that piracy of pre-release films doesn't hurt their commercial prospects. Swan cost $13 million to make but earned $329 million at the box office. One could plausibly argue that piracy helped the film instead of harming it.
Second, the screener was traced back to this actor via a watermark in the copy he downloaded from iTunes, where the Screen Actors Guild put the movie for specific people to review and vote for. I love this idea. FOX put the pilot for New Girl on iTunes weeks before it was to debut on network television. I was able to quickly download a high quality 1080p copy to review (I haven't actually reviewed it yet because I'm lazy) that got to me faster and cheaper than a DVD, and in high def.
More networks need to do this. Especially cable. Although ABC puts its screeners on its website, I was denied press credentials this year supposedly because of the costs involved. Which doesn't make sense, given that ABC is doing streaming screeners because it's supposed to be cheaper than mailing out DVDs. FOX won't put me on their "all screeners" mailing list (that NBC puts me on every year only to take me back off every year) because of those costs.
Put them on iTunes and Apple pays for it, we get to review them the instant they are available, and in good HD. Everybody wins.
Third, isn't it a bit creepy that the federal government looked into prosecuting someone for copyright infringement when all we hear is about how the government is spending too much money, yet we have to spend more money every year on national security to keep us safe? Does anyone feel safer because the FBI tried to send a small beans actor to jail for pirating a movie that ended up making over a quarter of a billion dollars?