Arrr! Movie Pirates Busted
Yesterday, the Motion Picture Industry of America (MPAA) -- the trade group and lobbying arm of the major Hollywood studios -- announced the arrest of two L.A. 20-something cousins accused of stealing movies and uploading them to the Internet.
The movies in question are "screeners." Screeners are DVD copies of films sent to Oscar voters so they can take a look a movies nominated for Academy Awards if they haven't been able to get out and see them in the theaters. Studios often wait until late in the year to release movies they think have a good chance at an Oscar, so it will be fresh in voters' minds, as opposed to a film that came out in, say, February.
Which means: Sometimes DVD screeners are out before the movie has been distributed. This makes them a prime target for pirates.
The 22-year-old male who was arrested put the films on the Web. After which, he made his critical mistake: He tried to sell the DVDs to an undercover informant. (How does one become an MPAA informant? Is it the minor leagues for cops? A step up from schoolyard snitch?)
Once nabbed, the perp turned in his source for the stolen DVDs: His 22-year-old female cousin, a receptionist at an accounting firm that works with the Academy Awards. She is accused of intercepting the DVDs sent to the accounting firm and turning them over to her bonehead cousin. (Thank goodness most criminals are idiots.) The MPAA knows the stolen DVDs are screeners and not just any old DVD because each screener is encoded with a watermark identifying the intended recipient of the disc.
The movies that were stolen: "Infamous" (Warner Bros.), "Little Children" (New Line), "Babel" (Paramount), "Running With Scissors" and "Marie Antoinette" (Sony) and "The Dead Girl" (First Look).
The cops tossed the female perp's house and found three more stolen screeners: "Pirates of The Carribean 2" (Disney, and how appropriate), "Superman Returns" (Warner Bros.) and "The Queen" (Miramax).
All part of the MPAA's enforcement arm, which seeks to shut down pirates both here and abroad.
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