Laura Byrne-Cristiano is a co-owner of The Twilight Lexicon, the longest continuously operating Twilight Saga fansite on the web. You can read her Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn column here on Movies.com every other Thursday.
Like many fans I found myself surprised and spoiled earlier this year when someone emailed me and said, “Have you seen the new Breaking Dawn images?” I clicked thinking I was about to see studio stills from scans of EW or People. Instead, I found myself staring at a collection of low-resolution images and video taken from various scenes in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2. Three thoughts entered my head in rapid fire succession: lawsuit, cool, damn. Well…not exactly those words, but that’s the PG-13 version.
It took a couple of months of investigation, but my first thought just became reality. On August 1, 2011, Summit Entertainment sent out a press release that there was in fact going to be legal action taken. The release stated that, “In an action that further communicates that those who steal images, video and other intellectual property will be identified and prosecuted globally, Summit Entertainment communicated today that it has identified the principal hacker who earlier this year stole unreleased materials from THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN which were then distributed on the internet.” The release went on to name the specific person whom they are looking to prosecute, and the town where this person resides in Argentina.
I can’t say I was terribly surprised at this. Summit Entertainment had issued a statement back in March asking fans to help find those who had hacked in and stolen the items. Robert Pattinson even made a personal plea on video and added that his own email had been hacked more than once. Movie studios, record companies, and book publishers have all gone after pirates. They have to in order to defend their intellectual property rights or they risk losing them. Some of the cases are infamous such as the Wolverine leak, whereas others are lower key.
This is not the first time that Summit Entertainment has had to deal with issues of hacking surrounding The Twilight Saga. During the filming of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse roughly half a dozen photos were leaked onto the Internet. Summit did take legal action against those involved. The case was investigated and drawn out over almost a year. In looking at the court documents from that case, the distributors of the illegally obtained material cooperated and handed over information that eventually lead to the actual hacker, a woman from Sweden. The court documents revealed that, over the course of several weeks, she had obtained many images from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Fortunately for Summit Entertainment, only six or so landed online.
What’s really been interesting is how open Summit is being about the current case. Given that Summit didn’t utter a peep about the previous case, it seems a little unusual for them to be so flamboyant now. On the other hand, this time out a whole lot more than six images leaked. The end number was closer to thirty, and there was also video footage. Speculation has arisen that, unlike last time, they may have an uncooperative alleged hacker, and this openness is a persuasive tactic to have that person name accomplices. Others theorize that there might be regret on the part of Summit Entertainment for not publicizing the first case. Perhaps if they hadn’t been so low-key, it would have been a deterrent.
After seeing the images from the current Breaking Dawn hacking, I had mixed emotions. For me, it was cool to see Bella and Edward romping by a waterfall and playing chess (an image later officially released). Having read the books, those were scenes that I could have imagined without much effort. It didn’t really ruin anything for me. The same was true with the bedroom scenes. I got a certain gratuitous rush out of seeing honeymoon photos and video, and knowing that things still could be sexy and stay PG-13 with creative editing.
On the other hand, I hit a series that I wish I could erase from my brain. I saw images of the birth, and another of what was vampire Bella in action. Those I could have done without. To me they significantly spoiled what was to come. It’s not that I didn’t know those things were in the plot, but I didn’t know, artistically, how director Bill Condon and company were going to pull those things off visually. They were effects items that I really needed to see in context complete with score, dialogue, mood lighting, etc. There’s an old adage that, “The tale is in the telling”, and I ruined that tale for myself by looking. Could I have stopped once I realized after the first few images what had been dumped in my inbox? Sure, that was an option. I confess, like many, I just didn’t have that will power once the mother load landed in my lap. Part of my reaction is being angry at myself for not being able to resist what was in front of me.
Online reaction has been mixed. I have seen a lot of fans who express that no matter what the motivation, hacking is wrong. As one person put it, "They wouldn’t break into someone's house or office and steal photos, but they think it's OK because it's the Internet." On the other hand, I've seen people blame Summit Entertainment for not having better security, especially since there was a previous incident. Then there are those who think the proverbial book should be thrown at the hackers, and others who think leniency is the way. In the end there are no easy answers especially since as of yet, the details aren’t public.
Where do you think the blame lies? How do you feel about stolen images, hacking servers, and personal emails? Is there a punishment that you feel should fit the crime, or do you feel it’s not a crime at all?
No matter what happens, we’ll all be seeing the fully done images and video in 105 days when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 releases.