Actor Pleads Guilty to Pirating SAG Screener of Black Swan

blackswan300355.jpgDuring the rush to get awards season hopefuls in front of various guilds, the studios have turned to increasingly digital means of distributing screeners to voters. Theatrical screenings and snail-mailed DVD screeners have given way to iTunes codes that allow recipients to download films directly for viewing on laptops, iPads, and other devices. It's a bold move dependent on a trust that none of the nearly 100,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, for example, will turn around and pirate said films to the internet. But that's exactly what one SAG member did last winter.

SAG member Wes DeSoto, recently seen as "Werewolf Enthusiast" on a 2010 episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, was the subject of a criminal investigation himself this spring when the FBI raided his home suspecting that he had illegally uploaded SAG award season screener copies of Black Swan and four other films, including The King's Speech and 127 Hours. DeSoto has now pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal copyright infringement for uploading his screener copy of Black Swan to BitTorrent.

Wired reports that DeSoto agreed to plead guilty to "one count of breaching the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005," which could bring a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Previously, DeSoto denied ties to pirating group TiMPE with the claim, "I'm nobody in the online file sharing world. This investigation is excessive and a waste of tax dollars." The FBI investigation of DeSoto began when an MPAA officer flagged the illegal upload of the pirated films and he was suspected of being connected to the Pirate Bay handle mf34inc, from which the alleged pirate had bragged online of being a SAG member.

The move to send full copies of screeners out to thousands of voting awards season members is cost-effective and convenient, but will piracy cases like DeSoto's scare more studios away from adopting the new delivery method? Probably not, as DeSoto's shaping up to be a cautionary example warning even industry insiders not to cross the MPAA. But it'll probably make it even harder for DeSoto to work in this town again.

Actor to Plead Guilty to Leaking Black Swan to BitTorrent [Wired]