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Academy expels member over ‘screener’

Copies of the tapes were distributed on the Internet
/ Source: Reuters

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, Wednesday said it expelled a member for giving away videotapes of Oscar-hopeful movies in violation of Academy policy.

The member widely reported as violating the policy is Carmine Caridi, a 70 year-old actor in Los Angeles who has had small parts in two of “The Godfather” movies and on television in shows like “NYPD Blue.”

Caridi could not be reached for comment, and an Academy spokesmen declined to name him as the expelled member, citing an Academy board vote to keep the name confidential.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials have said Caridi has admitted to sending videotape copies of movies to Russell Sprague, a one-time electrician from Homewood, Illinois.

Sprague, 51, has been arrested and charged with two counts of violating U.S. copyright laws by copying the tapes, putting them into digital form and distributing them on the Internet.

Two movie studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros., have sued Caridi, Sprague and 10 anonymous “John Does” over claims of copyright infringement.

Oscars are the U.S. film industry’s top annual awards given out by the motion picture Academy, and this year’s winners will be named on Feb. 29.

The expulsion stems from a controversial “screener ban” instituted by Hollywood’s major movie studios last fall to keep movies vying for Oscars from being copied and sold overseas or posted on the Internet.

The ban was eventually overturned by a federal judge, but Academy members were asked to sign an agreement saying that if they received a “screener” tape they would not allow it to be reproduced or even let it outside their residence or office.

The Academy members signing the agreement knew that if they violated its terms, they might be expelled.

“We’re obligated ... to live up to our part of the bargain and to enforce our commitment to safeguard the videotapes sent to us,” Academy President Frank Pierson said in a statement.