Academy targets actor in piracy probe. An uploaded copy of ''Something's Gotta Give'' is allegedly traced to a screener tape sent to ''NYPD Blue'' actor Carmine Caridi

By Gary Susman
Updated January 13, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

When the Motion Picture Association of America decided this fall to fight piracy by banning studios from sending out ”screener” videos of eligible movies to awards voters, it carved out an exception for Academy members. But it seems that even Oscar voters can’t be trusted. According to the Los Angeles Times, an Academy probe traced an uploaded copy of ”Something’s Gotta Give” to a screener cassette that the studio had sent to an Academy member. The Academy didn’t name the member, but a person familiar with the probe identified him as Carmine Caridi, a character actor whose resume includes ”The Godfather Part II” and the role of Det. Vince Gotelli on ”NYPD Blue.”

The Academy said it learned of the illicit web copy of the film last week from ”Something”’s distributor, Sony, and used the electronic watermark imprinted on the image to trace the video leak. The uploaded ”Something” — a movie that contains a likely Best Actress nominee in Diane Keaton — was the first known instance of an Oscar member’s screener copy being identified as the source of a pirated duplication.

In imposing the screener ban (which was overturned in court last month), the MPAA made an exception for Oscar voters, arguing that the Academy was capable of policing itself. To receive screeners this year, Academy members had to sign a pledge (only 80 percent of them agreed to do so), promising not to circulate the tapes or allow them to be copied, on pain of possible expulsion from the Academy.

Academy executive director Bruce Davis told the Times he’d spoken briefly on the phone with the accused voter, who Davis said promised to call back and explain his actions fully but never did. A formal letter from the Academy also received no response. The Times reported that it was unable to reach the 69-year-old actor for comment.

Sony told the Times it was considering legal action, though the studio would wait to make a decision until the Academy probe was completed. ”I still have trouble believing that anybody would take the care of a 2003 screener lightly,” Davis told the Times. ”It never occurred to me that anybody would ever let this happen. It’s risking the whole ability of the Academy members to get their screeners next year.”