Well, the mutant’s outta the bag… Not so much now, as we near a year after the original controversy, but that’s what people were thinking last spring when a bootleg copy of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” leaked onto the Internet a month before its intended theater premiere. In fact, I recall the initial buzz about the premature release. A few of my friends, who are comic book junkies and avid X-Men fans, informed me of the event with mingled giddiness and disgust. We agreed that a few weeks of waiting was worth maintaining our nerd integrity, and (to my knowledge) we were all untainted when we saw the blockbuster in theaters.
But what ever happened to the leaker? Little did he know, the now infamous “Wolverine” leaker, Gilberto Sanchez, a working stiff from the Bronx, was in for a rude awakening. Gilberto, who says he bought a DVD of the unfinished version of the film on the street, was literally awakened by F.B.I. agents pounding on his door in December. He was arrested and indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of uploading the copy of the 20th Century Fox movie to the Web site Megaupload.com. If convicted, Sanchez faces prison time and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss in regards to the offense, whichever is greater. Though Sanchez, released on bail, seems to be bearing the brunt of the film studio’s wrath, the F.B.I. continues searching for the true criminal: whoever stole the copy of the film in the first place.
So, what was the total damage wrought by this clear copyright violation? “Wolverine” ended up grossing $373 million worldwide, making those 15 million downloads (by Fox estimates) seem like a drop in the bucket. But just try telling that to the film studio. Or Sanchez, for that matter. More than anything, I’d love to ask him the question that will be on my mind as I pop a Netflix DVD of “Wolverine” into my laptop this week: “Was it worth it?”