Here’s an interesting note that’s not exactly new, but might be news to a lot of movie fans anyway: Apple apparently has been passing out movie screeners for Oscar voters via iTunes. That fact came to light in an FBI raid earlier this week chasing down a man who allegedly uploaded illegal copies of movies like The King’s Speech and Black Swan to pirate filesharing services. Among the documents in the case were a few comments on bittorrent site The Pirate Bay, where the suspect allegedly identified himself as an Academy member, and said that “SAG now sends out iTunes download codes for screens.” A movie studio contract firm did the footwork, connecting a digital signature on the pirated screener back to the FBI’s suspect, as well as lining up the IP on The Pirate Bay’s uploads.
Piracy case aside, the interesting part here is that Apple is apparently coordinating distribution of Academy screeners with special iTunes codes. This likely isn’t true for all screeners — I have friends here in LA who still get their screeners the old fashioned DVD way — but it makes sense that SAG would want to simply email out codes to share movies early, as well as use any digital signature information to track down anyone illicitly sharing these copies. Especially for these two movies, already available on the service, it’s probably easier to just give out codes than actually print DVDs.
You wonder what Apple’s role in this deal is, if they have one at all (SAG might just buy the movies and pass out codes themselves). It could be like the movie trailers on the Quicktime site, just one of those roles Apple happened to take over, or maybe it’s in conjunction with some other agreement Apple has already made.