Critic cops to selling screeners

Sherman caught in piracy probe

The critic liked “The Pacifier,” but that didn’t stop him from selling the screener to bootleggers.

Paul Sherman, a Massachusetts freelance reviewer whose outlets have included the Boston Herald, pleaded guilty to selling the 2005 action-laffer along with more than 100 other screeners to online “warez” groups, the Justice Dept. announced Tuesday.

Warez groups often cause the most damage in terms of copyright infringement.

According to Justice, warez groups “operate as the original sources for a majority of the pirated works distributed and downloaded via the Internet. Once a warez release group prepares a stolen work for distribution, the material is distributed in minutes to secure, top-level warez servers throughout the world. From there the pirated works are distributed globally within a matter of hours, filtering down to peer-to-peer and other public file sharing networks accessible to anyone with Internet access.”

In his plea agreement, Sherman stated that in 1999 he began auctioning DVD screeners that he “no longer needed or wanted on eBay.” During one auction, a warez operator identified as David Teves in Sherman’s statement emailed him and offered $40 plus shipping costs if Sherman would stop the auction and overnight the DVD (of “Out Cold”) to him.

The relationship continued until June 2005, during which time Sherman sold approximately 117 screeners for a total $4,714, according to his plea agreement.

Sherman’s plea resulted from Justice’s Operation Copycat, which, counting Sherman, has netted 30 convictions of warez pirates so far. He could be facing three years in prison plus at least $250,000 in fines, but his cooperation may lead to a reduced sentence.

A woman who answered the phone on the Boston Herald’s arts desk said that Sherman “hasn’t been with us for over a year.” A database search shows his last byline appeared Aug. 5, 2005. She said his departure was not related to actions associated with his guilty plea.

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