Pic's hype breeds misdeeds in cyberspace

With the second trailer to “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” out in theaters, overzealous fans are once again going trailer happy and are even willing to cross legal lines to cash in on the pic’s hype, selling unused and stolen prints of the pic’s two trailers online.

A search Tuesday on eBay, the San Jose-based online auction house,found 25 prints of the first and second trailers for the upcoming pic available to bidders.

Several of the auctions were shut down by eBay after attorneys from Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox contacted the auction house.

But as of Wednesday, 25 copies of the trailers were still for sale.

“What they’re doing is an illegal act, and we will do anything we can possibly do to protect our copyright,” said Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox’s Domestic Film Group. “We are dealing with this as we speak.”

Added a Lucasfilm spokesperson, “Once some of the sites are taken down, more appear. That’s a real problem. We’re trying to work something out with eBay, but right now, it has to be done on a case-by-case basis.”

Two “never-opened” copies of the second trailer, complete with “original sealing sticker” and in “SDDS” and “DTS” audio formats, were sold Wednesday by two California residents for $360 apiece. Original bids on Sunday and Friday, when both began selling, were $25.

A second East Coast-based seller put his own “unused, unopened and in mint condition” copy of the second trailer — that even comes with “a copy of the ‘must be returned to Lucasfilm’ letter” — up for bid Tuesday. Initial bid was $40. Bidding closes March 23.

Other copies contained paperwork enclosed with the trailers when they were shipped to the theaters.

And yet another auction of a copy of the second trailer that began taking bids Wednesday at $9.99 already was up to $100 by the end of the day.

Additionally, two sellers out of Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., auctioned off prints of the teaser trailer released in November on eBay, as well, with both trailers, described as being in “mint condition, still sealed with stickers from 20th Century Fox” netting $200 and $300 each.

But the recent trailer auctions on the Web aren’t the first.

A copy of the first trailer was sold for $405 on eBay in December.

There is no word on how the sellers got the trailers, and eBay would not disclose contact information. However, insiders said the individuals may have taken the prints from the movie theaters they work at.

Kevin Pursglove, a spokesperson for eBay, said the company would be willing to work with Lucasfilm and Fox if sellers were pushing illegal material.

“If they requested that we take down the bidding sites, we would do so immediately, no questions asked,” Pursglove said. “We work very actively with content providers and encourage them to give us a call if there is any problem with products being sold.”

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