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A screener (SCR) is an advance screening of a film or television series sent to critics, awards voters, video stores (for their manager and employees), and other film industry professionals, including producers and distributors. Screeners help critics and award voters see smaller movies that don't have the marketing advantage or distribution of major studio releases. Positive mentions can result in awards consideration. A screener often has no post-processing. Nowadays physical DVD copies still appear to be issued, but screeners are also distributed digitally to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the media/publicity sites of individual television networks for television shows. When screeners leak online, they are often tagged "DVDSCR", and often have an on-screen graphic watermarked with the receiver's email address.
In 2003, the MPAA announced that they would be ceasing distribution of screeners to Academy members, citing fears of piracy. A group of independent film makers sued and won a decision against the MPAA. The MPAA later reinstated the screeners with the implementation of a new policy requiring recipients to sign a binding contract that they would not share the screeners with others.
In January 2004, Academy member Carmine Caridi was announced as a person of interest in an ongoing FBI investigation into video piracy. He was subsequently expelled from the Academy after he was found to have sent close to 300 screeners to a contact called Russell Sprague in Illinois, over a five-year period. Caridi was later ordered to pay Warner Bros. for copyright infringement of two of their films, Mystic River and The Last Samurai, a total of $300,000 ($150,000 per title). Sprague was later found dead in his Los Angeles prison cell. The US Marshals Service suspects he may have died of a heart attack.
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