Smash-hit Kiwi film Boy has been illegally uploaded on to the internet, potentially slashing the earnings of its investors.
The Taika Waititi-directed flick has had huge box office success, going on to gross $8.4 million at the box office since its release in March, placing it third on an adjusted list of all-time New Zealand film takings.
One industry insider has previously said it should reach $9 million, ultimately placing it second behind only Once Were Warriors. Goodbye Pork Pie is currently second at the box office.
However, with it yet to be released overseas and on DVD, its availability online is expected to curtail its future earnings.
The last time a Kiwi film was illegally copied, it cost investors about $1 million.
Three copies, apparently high definition pre-sale versions, are available on a pirating website which Stuff.co.nz has decided not to name.
At least 200 people have already downloaded a copy with over 100 more downloads in progress on last check.
Comments, some apparently from overseas viewers, describe the quality of the clips as "superb".
New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft executive director Tony Eaton confirmed they were investigating after being alerted by the New Zealand Film Commission last week.
They were looking in to where the downloaded versions of the movie had come from.
"That's a concern, that's something we’d like to know considering the fact that it hadn't been released on DVD.
"We're looking the copy to see where it did actually come from – that's certainly the first area of concern for us as well as the Film Commission."
He did not believe it had spread significantly over the internet, though there had originally only been one file available for download on the website.
A spokesperson for the New Zealand Film Commission confirmed they were aware of the issue and said NZFACT was looking in to it on their behalf.
They declined to comment further.
This is not the first time internet piracy has affected Kiwi films.
In 2007, pirated copies of Kiwi film Sione's Wedding were distributed before the movie even hit cinemas, costing its investors an estimated $1 million, Mr Eaton said.
An employee at that film's post-production company was eventually convicted of distributing a pirated copy.
Mr Eaton said that as Boy had already had major box office success, the financial losses were not likely to be as severe, though they would be considerable.
Boy is set to be released in Australia in August after winning the Audience Award for Fiction Feature Film at the Sydney Film Festival and it is yet to be released on DVD.
"That would certainly harm it going out to the likes of Australia and going on to DVD."
Any profits that were lost meant less money went back into funding future New Zealand films, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News