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Judge gives $300,000 fine in screener case

Academy member Carmine Caridi allowed copies to be made of promotional Oscar DVDs
/ Source: Reuters

A federal judge has fined a man $300,000 for allowing copies to be made of two movies he obtained as part of promotions aimed at winning the U.S. film industry’s top awards, the Oscars, Warner Bros. studio said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson granted a default judgment against Los Angeles resident Carmine Caridi, who was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and had received DVDs of “Mystic River” and “The Last Samurai” in 2003.

The judgment ends a chapter in last year’s industry ”screener ban,” in which the studios tried to crack down on the illegal copying of videos and DVDs into digital files that could then be posted on the Web and watched by anyone.

The studios believe illegal copying of films costs them more than $3.5 billion annually in lost sales of videos and DVDs. They fear billions more are lost from digital copies on the Web, and have mounted a huge effort to stop it, including suing people they accuse of copyright infringement.

Federal officials claimed Caridi, who acted in small parts in two of “The Godfather” movies, sent his DVDs to Russell Sprague of Homewood, Illinois, who digitized them for posting on the Internet. Sprague was later charged with violating copyright law and he pleaded guilty. Caridi was not charged.

Warner Bros. sued Caridi, but he never responded, according to court papers. He could not be reached for comment.

The Oscars are given out each year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The awards often bring in more money for movie studios via ticket, video, DVD and television sales.