Pirated "Sicko" surfaces on YouTube

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Moviegoers interested in seeing Michael Moore’s U.S. health-care expose, “Sicko,” could find it easily on YouTube this weekend.

Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks about health care reform at a legislative briefing for state senators at the State Capitol in Sacramento June 12, 2007. Moviegoers interested in seeing Moore's U.S. health-care expose, "Sicko," could find it easily on YouTube this weekend. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

Two weeks before its June 29 opening, a 124-minute version of the film was available on the popular Web site, posted by at least two users in 14 consecutive video chunks. (The film clocked in at 113 minutes when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.)

The YouTube appearance comes on the heels of a fairly high-quality pirated version available via BitTorrent file-sharing software and peer-to-peer Web sites last week, first reported by Advertising Age on Friday. As of 1 a.m. EST Monday morning, the film was still available on YouTube.

One version uploaded this weekend received around 500 to 600 views per segment, with one of the first segments garnering nearly 1,700 views. Another version uploaded Saturday garnered 200 to 300 views per segment, with the first 10 minutes getting more than 1,200 views.

Weinstein Co. is distributing the $9 million documentary with Lionsgate but handling all marketing and other costs not related to theatrical distribution on its own. A Weinstein Co. source said the company has already hired several firms who specialize in dealing with piracy and are taking “a very aggressive approach to protecting the film.”

When sought for an official comment from Weinstein Co. late Sunday evening, a spokesperson was unaware that the entire film was on YouTube. A Lionsgate executive and a YouTube spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment at deadline.

The spokesperson issued a statement also given to other media outlets, saying that “while virtually every movie released these days faces a similar situation, ‘Sicko’ is more than just a movie, it is a call to action. We are responding aggressively to protect our film, but from our research it is clear that people interested in the movement are excited to go to the theater so they can be part of the experience and fight to reform health care.”

How the leak of a version apparently taken from a DVD copy will affect the film’s theatrical boxoffice remains unclear. Moore’s anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” was widely bootlegged and available in a pirated version online around its June 2004 opening, but went on to earn $119 million at the domestic boxoffice.

In a July 2004 interview with the Scottish newspaper Sunday Herald, Moore said, “I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that ... I do well enough already, and I made this film because I want the world to change. The more people who see it the better, so I’m happy this is happening.”

Early last week, before the leak, a Weinstein Co. source downplayed the studio’s expectations for the film, and stated hopes that the film would earn somewhere around the $21.6 million earned by Moore’s 2002 docu “Bowling for Columbine.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter