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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.[1] Screeners help critics and award voters see smaller movies that do not have the marketing advantage or distribution of major studio releases. Positive mentions can result in awards consideration.[2] 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.[3] When screeners leak online, they are often tagged "DVDSCR", and often have an on-screen graphic watermarked with the receiver's email address.[3]

In 2003, the MPAA announced that they would be ceasing distribution of screeners to Academy members, citing fears of copyright infringement.[4] 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 as many as 60 screeners a year for at least three years to a contact called Russell Sprague in Illinois. 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).[5][6] 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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