Net throws down gauntlet on review DVDs

Fox sent a not-so-subtle message Monday to reporters: Keep the network’s review screeners off the Internet — or risk legal action.

In an attempt to crack down on illegal Internet uploads and pirated show discs, Fox has enacted new, tougher antipiracy measures on all of its review DVDs.

Effective immediately, the network has placed invisible watermarks on its screeners that will identify which reporter or TV critic was sent the copy.

“If unauthorized copies (including Internet uploads) of our television shows are traced back to your screener, you risk civil and criminal penalties,” wrote Joe Earley, Fox’s exec VP of publicity, corporate communications and creative services, in a letter to reporters and critics.

According to Earley, the decision to crack down came after two shows recently sent to the press would up being streamed on the Internet via filesharing programs. The new antipiracy effort is also a part of the larger initiative being driven by the motion picture academy mailers.

Also, review DVDs of Fox shows like “Prison Break” will be taped shut with a “security seal.” Break open the seal, and you’ve agreed to the terms of Fox’s tight restrictions — no copying, loaning, renting or selling of the DVD. The network suggests reporters take a pair of household scissors and cut up the DVD after watching it.

The new crackdown reps the most extensive yet by any network. It also follows the lead of HBO, which has emblazoned screeners with a visible onscreen watermark (of the recipient’s initials) for several years now.

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