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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Academy Awards DVD ban lifted
Smaller films rely on screeners to reach Oscar voters
A ban on preview DVDs of new films being sent to Academy Awards voters has been lifted by awards organisers.

Oscar jurors will now be able to receive specially encoded "screener" copies if they sign an agreement promising to protect the films.

Hollywood studios and Oscar bosses hope the move will reduce the number of films being illegally pirated.

But film critics' groups and other awards organisers who were left out of the deal said it was "unfair" that they were still excluded.

The compromise has been reached by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Oscars organisers the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It means DVDs and tapes will be sent to Academy voters only, leaving other award juries unable to receive the screeners.


The Los Angeles Film Critics Association is standing by its decision to cancel its awards ceremony in protest at the ban.

"This is not a rescinding of the ban, so we are sticking with our decision, with great reluctance," president Jean Oppenheimer said.

Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Golden Globes, said he viewed the MPAA's move "with dismay and concern".

Halle Berry
Halle Berry won an Oscar for the independently-made Monster's Ball
"We are evaluating our options to have a decision reversed that we regard as unfair, completely arbitrary and an assault on the professional integrity of our members," he said.

The ban had been enforced by the MPAA to crack down on piracy, which is said to be costing the movie industry billions of dollars a year.

Hundreds of leading stars and film-makers, including Sir Michael Caine and Francis Ford Coppola, said it would effectively kill independent movie making.

Piracy priority

They said if awards juries - especially the 5,600-odd Oscars voters - could no longer receive their own copies of films, they were unlikely ever to see smaller movies.

That would make it impossible for them to vote for small-circulation independent films.

Film-makers said independent movies such as 2001's Monster's Ball - which got two Oscar nominations and a best actress award for Halle Berry - would have no chance of being made if the ban were strictly enforced.

But the MPAA insisted that defeating digital piracy had to be its priority.

Officials said the compromise plan would be tried for a year. Members found to have pirated a screener or allowed their copy to be pirated could face expulsion from the Academy and possible legal action.

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