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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 18:03 GMT
Oscar hopefuls 'already pirated'
Charlize Theron in North Country
Charlize Theron's North Country has reportedly been pirated
Pirated copies of movies sent to Oscar voters are already appearing online, a US internet analyst has reported.

Web traffic tracker BayTSP has begun monitoring for "screeners" - advance copies of films sent to individuals who vote on Academy Award nominations.

It said digital watermarking would be used to track files and assess damages in the event of a prosecution.

Among the titles that are reportedly being distributed illegally is North Country starring Charlize Theron.

Two men were prosecuted last year after films including Mystic River and The Last Samurai ended up on the internet.


In November 2004, actor Carmine Caridi was fined $300,000 (172,000) after admitting he sent VHS tapes of about 60 movies to Russell Sprague of Illinois.

Mr Sprague had earlier pleaded guilty to copyright infringement after creating pirate copies of films including Kill Bill: Vol 1 and Seabiscuit.

Screeners are in high demand by pirates because they offer a higher quality version of a film than that captured using a camcorder smuggled into a cinema.

"It's common knowledge in the pirate community that screeners are watermarked," said BayTSP chief executive Mark Ishikawa, adding that attempts to remove these digital imprints were usually unsuccessful.

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