16 May – Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge" is being held ransom by real-life cyber pirates.
The head mouse of Walt Disney, CEO Bob Iger, has revealed that hackers have claimed to have access to a Disney movie and they are threatening to release it ahead of its official release date unless the studio pays a ransom.
Though the name of the movie was not disclosed, Deadline has followed up with a confirmation that the movie in question is none other than the latest instalment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, which is scheduled to be released this month.
Iger made the revelation to ABC employees during a townhall-style meeting in New York, saying that the hackers are demanding to be paid an undisclosed amount in Bitcoin.
Disney is currently working with the FBI and refusing to pay.
The hackers have announced that they would release bits of the film in increments if their demands weren't met, starting with the first five minutes of the film followed by 20-minute chunks until they get their money.
Hector Monsegur, a hacker-turned-informant, current Director of Security for Rhino Security Labs and regular consultant on the Science Channel's "Outlaw Tech", said that the FBI will have a hard time tracking the hack.
"It's nearly impossible because you have various hackers from pretty much anywhere. Also, they are aware of techniques to track them down. So you could have an Egyptian hacker who uses Russian software so it looks like it's Russian but is actually from Egypt."
While movie piracy has been a long-time twenty-first century problem, ransoms appear to be a new twist.
Just recently, a hacker that calls himself The Dark Overlord leaked ten episodes of the fifth season of Netflix's "Orange is The New Black" on Pirate Bay over a month ahead of its premiere, after Netflix refused to pay the ransom.
Disney won't want to pay either and maybe leaking the movie won't even be a chip on the behemoth studio's shoulder. While "Pirates of the Caribbean" is one of its more successful projects – pulling in USD3.72 billion since its launch in 2003 – it won't be a big loss for them.
But the same can't be said for when smaller production companies are faced with the same situation. Not every studio has the kind of influence or money Disney has to create measures to prevent such acts from happening in the future.
Whatever the outcome, cases like these do not bode well for Hollywood agencies and may threaten the future of filmmaking as a whole.
If the case turns out favourably, then "Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge" will be released in theatres on 25 May, as planned.