Searches on peer-to-peer exchanges such as LimeWire and Morpheus this week returned long lists of files whose titles incorporate "Harry Potter," the hero of the expected movie blockbuster based on the best-selling novels by J.K. Rowling. Few of those files, if any, represent the genuine article, however.
A random sampling of peer-to-peer sites taken by CNET News.com this week turned up many trailers for the movie as well as a handful of mistitled movies, but no working full-length versions of the film.
"We have found that popular titles often show up on peer-to-peer exchanges in advance of the theatrical release, but a high percentage of them turn out to be pornography," said Aaron Fessler, a spokesman for MediaForce, an online anti-piracy company that works with copyright holders to track down and remove unauthorized files from the Web. "There were reports that 'American Pie II' was available before the domestic release, for example, but all of those turned out to be fakes."
MediaForce declined to comment on whether it has found full-length versions of the Harry Potter film online.
MediaForce each month publishes a list of the most-pirated movies found online, a report that routinely includes first-run movie titles. Although the company does not verify the content of each file, it uses techniques that cross-reference the file title with the file size to eliminate fake results.
The top three pirated films reported by MediaForce for the month of August were "American Pie," "The Fast and the Furious" and "Shrek."
Copies of Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" reportedly hit the Web shortly after its premier last week in London, a viewing that may have offered pirates the opportunity to videotape the film from the screen.
Warner Bros., an AOL Time Warner subsidiary, referred calls to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
MPAA spokeswoman Emily Kutner said that Warner Bros. has not distributed "screener" copies of the Harry Potter movie, referring to promotional videotaped copies of films that have been identified as an early source for pirated material in the past.
As of Wednesday, the MPAA had sent one notice to an Internet service provider to take down copyrighted Harry Potter material, she said, but added that the request was not for the full length feature film.
Although the group has been watching closely for leaked copies of the film, it has yet to find one.
"We do expect to find it eventually," Kutner said, "but so far we haven't found anything other than pornography."