Before using the red color for their red carpets Hollywood used red ink to print scripts to keep the spoilers at bay. Today, the spoiler-alert fights are intensifying — with neither camp giving up anytime soon.
The digital age has invigorated two opposing industries: The Hollywood spoiler-givers and those who foil spoilers. One is building an army of terrestrial and aerial spies, and a network of outlets (print and digital). The other is erecting barricades — both legal and physical.
A “spoiler” is defined as details about a crucial scene or a plot in a TV series or movie that is made public before the premiere of that episode or film.
Writer-director J.J. Abrams reportedly printed the scripts of his Star Wars trilogy on red paper so that they could not be photocopied. Nonetheless, late last November, one of those scripts was auctioned on eBay for U.S.$84.
Hollywood has reached a point wherein offices, editing rooms, and special effects labs are now regularly audited against potential spyware.
In the case of the HBO blockbuster Game of Thrones, a drone-killing device was used during filming in Northern Ireland to disable unauthorized aerial cameras snooping for footage. In addition, the conclusions in scripts of season eight of the series were delivered to talent in digital files that self-erased.
This is understandable, especially considering that Game of Thrones is one of the world’s most pirated TV series (together with The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory). The first four hours of season five were leaked on the eve of the season premiere and illegally downloaded 32 million times within a week.
A search for the shooting locations for Game of Thrones produces 17.4 million results, with detailed reports on various Northern Ireland sites like Moneyglass, Saintfield, and Tollymore Forest Park, as well as Kirkjufell in Iceland.
Avengers: Infinity War producers distributed fake scripts, while the real one was kept under wraps. Stars of the movie were given only those pages that had their dialogue.
Of course, the Spoiler-Alert industry is nothing new if we recall that Alfred Hitchcock reportedly bought all available first-print copies of Robert Block’s 1959 source novel in advance of the release of his 1960 horror classic Psycho.
However, despite Hitchcock’s attempts at keeping the Psycho project a secret, the spoiler industry was busy at work, and both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter published spoilers about the Psycho plot months before the film’s release.
The Spoiler-Alert industry also has its own academic branch and its own legal sector. For example, Benjamin K. Johnson and Judith E. Rosenbaum — the former is an assistant professor of Advertising at the University of Florida, the latter is an assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Maine — have studied how people react to spoilers, and in 2014 co-authored articles for Sage Journal about the factors that contribute to a person’s enjoyment of (or hatred for) spoilers.
On the legal front, before the premiere of the seventh season of series The Walking Dead, AMC, which co-produces and broadcasts the series, engaged in a legal-awareness campaign to prevent spoilers. Similarly, HBO demanded that YouTube remove a video featuring fan-made predictions of future episodes in the then-running season of Game of Thrones.
Indeed, the Spoiler-Foiling industry is getting tougher and, what worked in the past, such as disclaimers and disseminations at no charge to consumers, today no longer offers protection from claims of infringement, and does not constitute a valid defense to a guaranteed lawsuit.
(By Dom Serafini)
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