Carmine Caridi, the member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who violated the Academy's signed agreement covering the use of film studios' "awards screeners," was ordered to pay maximum statutory damages of $300,000 in a civil suit brought by Warner Bros. Entertainment. As an Academy member, he received DVD screeners, among them Warner Bros. Pictures' "Mystic River" and Warner Bros. Pictures' and WH Films' "The Last Samurai," which he then sent to Russell Sprague in Chicago.
In imposing the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per title for willful copyright infringement, Judge Stephen Wilson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California took particular note of the intentional and deliberate nature of Caridi's unlawful conduct. "The conduct in this case is particularly egregious," the Judge stated.
In direct violation of his signed agreement with the Academy, Caridi provided the DVD screeners-which represent perfect copies of the films-to Sprague, who then duplicated them and made them available to others, resulting in their being illegally posted on Internet peer-to-peer sites where they were easily downloaded. Sprague was arrested in April, 2004 and has pled guilty to a criminal charge of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He currently awaits sentencing.
Forensics proved that Caridi's screener, along with two illegally camcorded copies, provided the masters for pirated hard good copies in over 21 countries.
"Judge Wilson's award and comments clearly show that due to the viral nature of the Internet, even one illegally used copy of a film can cause significant financial damage," said Darcy Antonellis, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Anti-piracy Operations, Warner Bros. Entertainment. "In awarding the maximum statutory damages, he has shown that willful infringers will cause significant financial damage to themselves as well. We hope that the court's award against Mr. Caridi, as well as the criminal sentence to be handed down against Mr. Sprague, whose actions were equally destructive, will prove a deterrent against the stealing of intellectual property."
Craig M. Hoffman
Director, Corporate Communications, Technology Operations
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Craig.Hoffman@warnerbros.com>