Bootlegs apparently replicated from pristine studio copy

WASHINGTON — Almost three months before “Shrek 2″ officially hits videostore shelves, DreamWorks Home Entertainment is scrambling to prevent illegal copies from swamping the market.

Bootleg DVDs of the $450 million animated blockbuster recently turned up in auctions on eBay and on several British online auction sites. They were quickly removed, apparently in response to studio requests.

Unlike the camcorded copies of most movies found on Internet file-trading sites, the counterfeit copies of “Shrek 2″ appear to have been struck from a clean, studio copy of the film pilfered somewhere along the post-production or replication pipeline.

A spokeswoman for DreamWorks’ DVD replicator, Technicolor Home Entertainment, confirmed the company had been asked by DreamWorks to conduct a forensic analysis on counterfeit copies of “Shrek 2″ recovered by the studio in an attempt to determine their source. Technicolor uses proprietary technology to insert forensic markers into movies at various stages of their post-production, mastering and replication precisely for such purposes, she said.

A DreamWorks spokeswoman said the studio had no firm evidence any authorized copy of the film had fallen into the wrong hands.

“All films get pirated at some level, and it’s true of ‘Shrek 2′ just as it’s true of every other film,” the DreamWorks spokeswoman said. “Technicolor markets their forensic service to us and other studios, and we regularly rely on them to investigate things we find. There’s nothing unusual about what they’re doing with ‘Shrek 2.’ “

To date, no large caches of bootleg copies of “Shrek 2″ have come to light, though small quantities of apparently good-quality dubs have been circulating since at least July.

DreamWorks is in the process of preparing an initial public offering for its DreamWorks Animation unit, currently riding high on the huge theatrical success of “Shrek 2.” With a DVD street date of Nov. 5 –coming in roughly the same time frame as the planned IPO — any unauthorized leak of the film becomes a highly sensitive matter for the studio.

(Paul Sweeting is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication DVD Exclusive.)

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