Ever wonder how pirates get their hands on the latest movies before the public even gets to see them? One method has been revealed by Variety (subscription required). Movie critic Paul Sherman was arrested and charged with selling over 100 "screeners"—preview copies of movies on DVD handed out to reviewers—to various pirate and warez groups over the last few years.
Sherman, no relation to the animated Jay Sherman of FOX's short-lived The Critic, did not exactly get rich from his piratical dealings. He received a mere US$4,714 for the use of his screeners. If convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of US$250,000 and a three-year prison term.
It was not revealed how Sherman was identified and caught, but some suspect that the recent practice of adding digital watermarks to screeners may have played a part. Media companies are trying harder and harder to prevent leaks of this nature, including adding additional layers of encryption to some screeners that would tie them to a specific player. With the media companies already so paranoid, it seems an incredibly foolish risk for anyone to deliberately leak so many movies to the pirates, particularly given the rather paltry nature of the payoff.