Pirated Star Wars Movie Focus of Digital Battle

Star Wars fans know the newest prequel in the series is coming out Thursday.. but diehard Star Wars fans are already finding the movie on the internet.

It's possible because someone somewhere snuck in a videocamera in one of the private pre-screenings and taped the whole thing, then posted a digital version on the internet.  In an age when our most popular movies are more created digitally on computer and less by traditional means, is it any surprise that digital piracy is running rampant?

Online websites like Kazaa offer free software that once installed, allows subscribers to search and download movies and music that exist on other members computers...  is it illegal?  Probably...but it  is  a legal gray area, and most individual users are willing to take the chance.

Spiderman's been in the theatres for less than two weeks, and we had no problem finding  a black-market version of the movie -- complete with Japanese subtitles -- on the internet.

Some pictures of the upcoming movie, Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones were provided to us in a media kit, and the studio lets you download much the same trailers from their website: Starwars.com.  you might also want to check out their star wars news site holonetnews.com .  But all of it is copyrighted.

In fact, the digital millennium copyright act of 1998 specifies that it is "illegal to circumvent technical measures used to protect copyrighted works.... and that it is "illegal to traffic in tools that allow such circumvention."

Hollywood isn't too worried about internet copies as a major threat to the box-office take, because most people would prefer to see the movie on the big screen with THX sound.  but they are worried about illegal copies eating into video sales.

Who knows, the next chapter to the Star Wars story might come to you -- legally -- online through video-on-demand if they can iron-out an arrangement that satisfies everyone's pocketbook.

The movie industry claims 350-thousand films are downloaded illegally everyday.  That may be a stretch, but it is a growing online pastime.