Oscar screener of top movie found on Internet

An Oscar video “screener” of the top ranking romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, has surfaced on the Internet, says the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Three months ago the academy banned the distribution of “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 last 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 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 Godfather: Part II and television’s NYPD Blue. He was not available for comment.

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.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment, whose Columbia Pictures produced and distributed the movie, notified the academy about the online screener copy. An investigation continues.

“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 said it will decide whether to pursue legal action once the academy’s investigation is completed.

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