Oscar screener copy found online

'Something' available for download

LOS ANGELES — A copy of the romantic comedy “Something’s Gotta Give” that was sent to an Oscar voter has surfaced on the Internet, prompting a probe by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Academy officials said Monday that they learned last week about the unauthorized online copy of the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, which ranked fifth in last weekend’s box office tally.

The development was a setback for the anti-piracy campaign by the film industry and the academy. The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents studios, last year banned the distribution of so-called “screener” DVDs and videotapes over concerns about bootlegging, but partly lifted the ban after complaints from filmmakers, producers and independent production companies.

The studios changed the policy in October to allow the shipment of encoded videocassettes to Academy Award voters only. A federal judge in December, however, granted a temporary injunction lifting the screener ban in a lawsuit brought by independent production companies, which argued the policy put them at a disadvantage for awards.

The studios then sent screeners to thousands of other awards voters, including groups such as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Golden Globes.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that visible and hidden markings on the videocassette copy on the Internet identify it as the one sent to Carmine Caridi, a film and television actor who appeared in the “The Godfather: Part II” and television’s “NYPD Blue.”

The academy required its 5,803 eligible Oscar voters to sign forms promising to protect their screener tapes before they were received. About 80 percent of voters signed and returned the forms.

An excerpt of the form reads: “I agree not to allow the screeners to circulate outside of my residence or office. I agree not to allow them to be reproduced in any fashion, and not to sell them or to give them away at any time. … I agree that a violation of this agreement will constitute grounds for my expulsion from the Academy and may also result in civil and criminal penalties.”

The Times said Caridi, 69, couldn’t be reached for comment. His telephone number is not listed.

Bruce Davis, the academy’s executive director, declined to identify the Oscar member being investigated. Davis said a phone call was made to the member who said he would call back to explain the matter more fully, but the member never did. The academy has sent a letter seeking an explanation for how the screener copy wound up on the Internet, but has not received an answer.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, whose Columbia Pictures produced and distributed the movie, notified the academy last week about the online screener copy.

“We did everything we could to ensure the secure handling of all of our screeners sent to members of the academy,” Sony spokesman Steve Elzer told the Times. “We are very concerned about this situation, and have turned over all relevant information to the academy.”

Sony officials said they’ll decide whether to pursue legal action once the academy’s investigation is completed.

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