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 Makes Friedman Walk Plank for Film Piracy

April 6, 2009
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

After more than 10 years of acerbic writing, columnist Roger Friedman has reached a bitter end himself in a film piracy-related incident.

The moral of the story is that, if you work for a company that owns a movie studio, it’s not a good idea to download and review a stolen copy of an upcoming movie.

But that’s apparently what Friedman did.

The entire entertainment industry has been talking about the stolen copy of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which was posted on the Internet about a month before the movie’s planned debut.

The pirated version was an early, unfinished, special effect-free print, and execs were debating how much of a loss to the box-office the leak would represent.

Friedman evidently liked what he saw in the pilfered flick but actually wrote in his column about ticking off Fox movie execs.

“Right now, my ‘cousins’ at 20th Century Fox are probably having apoplexy,” Friedman wrote. “But everyone can relax. I am, in fact, amazed about how great ‘Wolverine’ turned out. It exceeds expectations at every turn. I was completely riveted to my desk chair in front of my computer.”

Friedman then made the mistake of rubbing the entire creative community the wrong way.

“I did find the whole top 10 [released films], plus TV shows, commercials, videos, everything, all streaming away. It took really less than seconds to start playing it all right onto my computer. I could have downloaded all of it but really, who has the time or the room? Later tonight I may finally catch up with Paul Rudd in ‘I Love You, Man.’ It’s so much easier than going out in the rain!”

Unfortunately for Friedman, he was accurate in his assessment of his “ ‘cousins’ at 20th Century Fox.” The studio issued a statement saying, “We’ve just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on — an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox — watched on the Internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the review is good or bad.”

As industry blogger Nikki Finke posted, Fox News sacked Friedman, explaining that

“Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post, and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman.”

Sources indicate that Fox News head Roger Ailes personally handled the termination.

The FBI is investigating how the movie made it to the Web.

Notwithstanding the politics of the entertainment business, the private property rights issue hits home when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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