'Tenet' Piracy: WB Faces Significant Challenges In Protecting Christopher Nolan's New Movie

When the decision was made to stagger the release of Christopher Nolan's highly-anticipated spy thriller Tenet in multiple countries across multiple weeks, the threat of piracy became even more potent. But now, just days away from the film's debut overseas, Warner Bros. faces significant challenges in containing the movie's tightly-held secrets. In short: if you're living in the U.S., there's a very good chance that Tenet's twists and turns will be spoiled for you ahead of time, so it might be best to make your peace with that idea now.

Thanks to the United States' awful handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Tenet's secrets will almost certainly make their way online before we have a chance to see the movie in this country. In an interview with Variety, one anti-piracy veteran described the movie as "perfect storm for piracy" – and the outlet implies that audiences in cities like New York and Los Angeles, which are frequently the first places to be able to screen mega-budget films like this but find themselves with theaters closed due to high COVID-19 cases, could be more likely to watch pirated copies.

Also contributing to the predicted rise in piracy: the fact that a pandemic is still sweeping the nation, which might make people less likely to head out to a theater and more likely to find a torrented version after it premieres overseas. Every studio, including WB, has an anti-piracy department tasked with taking down illegal copies of the movie that appear online. But often, those departments find themselves playing a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole, taking down one copy only for several more to sprout up in its place. And if a major leak of plot points makes the rounds on social media, as was the case with the final season of Game of Thrones or the video game The Last of Us Part II recently, it becomes exponentially more difficult to stop the spread.

Another potential problem? Theater chains aren't exactly sure how many members of their teams will be returning to work once the theaters open again. If enough veteran staffers do not return, their replacements won't be as experienced at anti-piracy measures like operating infrared CCTV in auditoriums or using portable night vision devices to police illegal recordings. And don't forget about drive-in theaters. While it's relatively easy to keep an eye on people trying to record movies in auditoriums, the difficulty level jumps up considerably when people are in their individual cars and able to be much sneakier.

To all of my fellow spoiler-phobes out there, I feel your pain. But I'm starting to think we won't be able to win this particular battle, and am making peace with the increasing likelihood that when I finally do get the chance to see this movie, I'll know way more about it than I'd want to in an ideal scenario. But I suppose that's fitting, because nothing about 2020 has been ideal so far.