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Movie piracy

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An example of a pirated movie (no puns).
An example of the image depicting pirated DVDs in a vendor in Thailand.

Movie piracy is the act of illegally copying a movie onto another format and distributing it.

It has existed since the days of the silent era, but only grew in the 1980s, when camcorders became commonplace. It grew even further in the 2000s, due to tapeless camcorders being silent and the Internet being in the majority of homes by then. It grew even further in the 2010s through the internet with higher quality bootlegs on piracy websites.

Why It Sucks

  1. Many early rips (often called cam rips) are poor quality, often having sound from the audience due to the audio being recorded from the microphone and autofocus issues.
    • Telesync rips while better in audio quality, are still poor quality due to the video being from a camera.
  2. It causes many studios to lose money, thus leading to negative effects on the studio, in some cases, it may cause the studios to go bankrupt.
  3. Searching for movies on sites like The Pirate Bay or 123Movies can be tedious, as there are constant viruses and pornographic popups. Even using an adblocker may not work. Older Torrents will not even work at all, because of older torrents having less downloads or being lost.
  4. Some files even have actual viruses in them.
  5. Many rips of DVDs or Blu-rays do not have the bonus features or foreign audio tracks in the official releases, or mix and match language selections that don't reflect those of the official studio-published release.
    1. For example, there are bootleg DVDs of Hollywood and anime films containing only either Italian or Russian dubs, whereas official releases include the original English/Japanese audio/subtitles, Italian/Russian dubs and subtitles, among others.
  6. In cam recordings, some copies may have the credits and end credits with bloopers/post credit scenes cut out.
  7. Cam recordings on the internet have pop-ups covering part of the screen, like cryptocurrency ads in which they can be annoying if you are trying to watch the movie.
  8. If you buy one, you are supporting criminals, unless you buy one without checking.
    • Not only do criminals do it, some people in impoverished areas do it too, only to make a quick buck, and the impoverished people fail to realize that it’s a crime.
      • Just to add on, there’s also impoverished criminals. (Criminals who are poor, and aren’t rich)
  9. The most infamous distributors of these bootlegs, are from the Theater Bootlegs OOC Twitter account in which the owners are actually profiting off of movie piracy by distributing these bootlegs on their Discord server in which you need to nitro boost to keep the server running (In which Discord Nitro costs $10), not only that if you explain to the owners that they are committing Movie Piracy by distributing them online via their Google Drive accounts, or even pointing their hypocrisy (That being they tell the user to not provide links/yet they do it on the server), they will ban you from the server.
    • As of this writing, they have distributed over 100+ illegal copies of movies on their Google Drive accounts. And they have gotten away with it.
    • Not only that one of the owners actually admit they actually vandalized this page, meaning they cannot take criticism. One of the users also claimed that "Bootleg Preservation =/= Piracy" yet it is literally piracy, as they are posting the bootleg rips online via Google Drive for everyone to see.
    • Also, they also put a watermark (That being their account name) on some of these bootleg rips claiming that it's their property yet they aren't.
  10. If you download a movie from a torrent site, you may get a copyright letter from your internet provider. In which they may cancel or slow down your internet service after a 6 strike system.
    • Disney is infamous for sending these types of letters unless one uses a VPN.
    • And due to AT&T now owning TimeWarner (aka WarnerMedia), before it merged into Warner Bros. Discovery, it makes movie piracy for AT&T users harder for Warner Bros films.
  11. Due to how common video platforms are, many users film the movie scenes in theaters (Mostly opening logos of the film, or big moments that impact the movie) and post them online to get extra views and subscribers. Causing the movie to lose money in the box office and the user who filmed it to get views and subscribers instead.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Rips from home media (especially Blu-rays) are quite good and indistinguishable from the original.
    1. They can even be customized to the user's likings, such as mixing and matching multiple language selections that weren't possible on the original releases (i.e, IMAX video from Disney+ on any MCU Blu-ray that isn't in 3D or never had IMAX video released on any disc format [i.e, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, the MCU Spider-Man trilogy, any MCU film starting with Shang-Chi and onwards]).
  2. They are the only way to get fanedits, such as Harmy's Despecialized Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy. If you own an official release of the original media, then it is safe.
  3. They are the only way to watch movies banned in strict countries like China, or are simply unavailable in the country of your residence for no particular reason, especially considering the fact that imports are expensive at times and can even be banned in certain countries.
  4. As of recent, this is great for preserving streaming exclusive media that can eventually be removed due to tax writeoffs, such as the situation involving Warner Discovery's HBO Max service since the merger. This is especially the case with shows like Infinity Train being wiped off the face of the Earth by the studio that produced it just for a quick buck, and if not for piracy (or in Infinity Train's case, the outrageously overpriced DVDs of the first 2 seasons), the show would've been considered completely lost to time.
  5. Many of these bootlegs might have cut content in them, notably in some cams and TS usually have shorts before the beginning of the movie and unused company logos that don't appear in the official physical release, and some of them are longer versions or vastly different versions of the movie.
  6. It's a great way to preserve movies that could eventually be lost in the future, such as very early movies, the Charlie Chaplin ones, etc.
  7. Sometimes, it's justified these days since companies like Disney are charging absurd prices for movie rentals that some people can't afford or are not willing to waste a lot of money on in case the movie is bad, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to spot a bootleg

These are the signs of a bootleg movie on DVD or on VHS:

Cover Art

  • The cover is of poor quality, with low quality images, and sometimes, appears to be crudely-drawn or designed.
    • A bootleg copy of Spider-Man: No Way Home contained a fanmade poster with all three Spider-Men, whereas the official release's cover just has Tom Holland's Spider-Man (albeit masked) and Doctor Strange.
  • The description has several typos or text that has nothing to do with the film in question.
  • The cover is made out of regular printer paper.
  • Sometimes you'd notice on the cover art that either the studio that made the film is either missing or replaced with the wrong one.
  • The case most of the time is made out of cheap materials, often breaking nearly instantly.
  • The back cover might have either incorrect or no technical details at all.

The tape/disc itself

  • The DVD disc's color is purple (or gold sometimes), the color of almost all DVD-Rs.
  • The VHS/DVD label is either a plain white disc/black tape with Sharpie writing on it or a printed label that is more faded than an official label.
  • Discs snap in half very easily, compared to official releases.
  • Tapes wears out very easily on repeated viewings, compared to official releases.
  • Some discs may even admit that watching them legally is a better option.

While watching a bootleg movie on a DVD or on a VHS, there are noticeable things you will notice:

  • Shadows of people are noticeable, some people usually walk out the theater to get a snack or a drink.
  • The video/audio quality are terrible on some bootlegs, the audio is usually poor quality with tons of fan noise, the video quality on the other hand is usually off-center on some bootlegs.
  • Some bootlegs have audience applause and laughing in the audio, or the bootlegger eating a snack (usually popcorn). Making TS bootlegs better than CAM (Despite the quality of TS being similar to CAM)
  • It only contains the movie and has no other special features, or language menus. Some of them do not have a menu at all, and just plays the movie.
  • Some scenes from the movie appear to be incomplete, e.g. the film suddenly cuts off right as the credits start to roll, due to being a bootleg recording.
  • No chapters to skip to highlights, only having the film in one continuous run like a digital copy or a stream.


  1. A Twitter account called @OutOfContextTRB shows off funny and strange moments from these types of bootlegs.
    • However they also distribute these pirated movies on their Discord, so pretty much what they are doing is illegal.


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