Paramount Discovers Pirating, Uploads All of ‘Mean Girls’ to TikTok in 23 Individual Parts
Like May 4th for Star Wars fans, October 3rd is a high holy day for aging millennials who wear pink on Wednesdays. It’s the very day that teen heartthrob Aaron Samuels told homeschooled jungle freak Cady Heron the date in the 2004 comedy Mean Girls. To properly mark the occasion this year, Paramount uploaded the 97-minute film across 23 posts on a newly-created TikTok account, making the film readily available for anyone who doesn’t have a subscription to the eponymous streamer Paramount+.
Although it may be strange to see a studio upload a movie in its entirety to a short-form app for free, it’s hardly unheard of. Back in August, NBCUniversal employed the same strategy when it uploaded the entire first season of Killing It to the Peacock TikTok account. These companies are parroting a method of piracy that’s wildly popular amongst users who upload full movies to platforms in small pieces as a means of bypassing copyright detection software. In essence, they’re beating pirates at their own game in the hopes of converting unwitting fans to subscribers.
On the surface, the move appears to be a tongue-in-cheek celebration of Mean Girls Day by connecting with a younger audience through their preferred means of communication. They’ve even quoted the ever popular “Get in loser, we’re going shopping” line in the page’s bio to let you know that they’re not a regular studio — they’re a cool studio.
But when you dig deeper, there are some implications that should give you pause.
One of the wins from the five-month writers’ strike was better residual bonuses for writers whose work nets significant viewership on platforms like Netflix and Prime Video. In essence, writers will now be fairly compensated when shows see wild viewership booms like the record-breaking streaming numbers set by Suits back in July. If someone watches Mean Girls in its entirety on TikTok, it’s not unreasonable to think that they wouldn’t bother going to the streamer to watch the film, thus undercutting potential residuals for its writers.
While in this case the writer is Tina Fey, whose wallet will hardly be affected, the practice still sets a dangerous precedent for writers who don’t have 30 Rock money. It will be interesting to see if other streamers and networks follow suit or if writers rally against the practice before it can become the norm.
Until then, get in loser — we’re going pirating.