eBay brimming with screeners

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In a practice called “unconscionable” and “inappropriate,” not to mention “illegal,” potential Emmy voters who have received “For Your Consideration” screener tapes and DVDs from networks and studios in the past couple of weeks are putting them up on eBay for auction.
Case in point: “Hi heres a Great 2002 EMMY CONSIDERATION video of `OZ’.Its in Excellent Condition,Commercial Free & Contains the Episodes `VISITATION’ & `VARIETY’.”
That’s how one such listing read from someone who seemed as oblivious to grammar and punctuation rules as to the nature of HBO, the pay cable network that carries “Oz” commercial-free.
Jules and Gedeon Naudet, the French filmmakers whose documentary about New York firefighters became the CBS blockbuster “9/11,” found screeners of their show (along with copies of the network’s broadcast on March 11) on eBay and notified Susan Zirinsky, the “48 Hours” executive producer who was one of the executive producers of “9/11.” Ms. Zirinsky notified network lawyers, who contacted eBay, which withdrew the items from auction.
Throughout the network and studio community, there is consensus that eBay is quick to pull down the material as soon as it receives an alert from the copyright owner. eBay did not return a call seeking comment.
Random and cursory searches of the Internet auction site turned up pages full of screeners, from “Everybody Loves Raymond” ($19.99) and the critically acclaimed “24” ($4) to “The Shield” ($6.95) and all three shows in the “Law & Order” franchise: “This 3 DVD Box Set (sealed in the original shrink wrap) and all 10 installments of `Band of Brothers’ (It is not a bootleg nor copy).”
All were delivered to voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, just in time to be fresh in the minds of voters, who must return their ballots to Ernst & Young by June 21.
“We can’t control our members, but the plan is to keep advising members that it’s a violation of the copyrights of producers,” said an official of the TV academy, which has nothing to do with “For Your Consideration” mailings but which does mail out at-home judging tapes of the nominees the week of Aug. 12.
“If this problem persists, we’re going to remind our blue-ribbon voters to return or destroy the tapes,” the academy official said.
Some but not all “For Your Consideration” tapes and DVDs do carry a message to the effect that the sale, rental or public performance of the tapes is illegal. But as studios and networks become aware of the scope of the problem, they say the prohibitions will be “burned” into every screener in the future.
“The concept of someone in the industry actually selling these is truly distasteful,” a CBS spokesman said.