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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Video Pirates Are Still Having a Picnic Selling Screeners on Ebay

10 Apr, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I just received my advance screener of USA Home Entertainment's Traffic in the mail today, and you can get one, too.

Just click on ebay, the online auction site, and there, plain as day, it is: "TRAFFIC VHS SCREENER L@@K." The copy promises "a brand-new VHS copy of the Academy Award-winning film...in great condition." The seller then adds, "Traffic on VHS is a rarity, as the movie officially comes out on video the end of May and will only be available for purchase on DVD, leaving us video lovers out in the cold. Please note this is not a bootleg, but a SCREENER."

It's been just about a year since I wrote a big story for both Video Store Magazine and the Los Angeles Times about how video pirates were having a field day on ebay and the other online auction sites, selling not just traditional bootlegs but also screeners, the sale of which is prohibited by law.

The Motion Picture Association of America conceded its concern about the illegal sale of screeners and promised a swift crackdown. And a pleasant-enough ebay spokesman assured me that auctions for screeners are disallowed and are promptly taken down.

Well, here it is a year later and someone's blatantly advertising a screener for sale on ebay. The seller, by the way, is from Canada, and the auction, which closes early Friday morning, already has four bids, with the price up to $20.63.

And, sad to report, this is not an isolated incident. Type in "screener" into ebay's "search" engine and you'll get 37 entries, all clearly identified in the heading as "screener" or even "Oscar screener." For What Women Want, you can even bid on a "promo box + BONUS SCREENER," in which the seller tries to get around the fact that he's selling something illegal. The entry reads:

"This is for a promotional 'pink box' from the movie What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson. The box contains thesame props from the film that Mel used to 'get in touch' with his 'other' side. The box also contains a button of the film poster. The box is a promotional gift for the movie that will come to video later this year... however... as a BONUS... YOU ARE NOT BUYING THE VIDEO IT IS A BONUS... I am throwing in the sealed sceener for WHAT WOMEN WANT. This moviemade over $150 million in the box office and this promotonal box will go great in any film buffs collection. The movie is just a bonus for the winner! Please pay with Paypal or Cashiers Checks/ Money Orders. Sorry no pics but this box and the contents are mint! No self wear whatsoever! Shipping will be determined on where you live. NO BIDS OUTSIDE THE US!!! Thanks again.... have fun bidding!"

The starting bid is $25 and the seller has 175 ratings from past customers, which means he's an ebay veteran --no novice who somehow slipped through ebay's security cracks.

And these are only the blatant ones. I shudder to think how many other screeners are channeled through the auction sites, but not identified as such. Type in "video" on ebay and you get 36,680 hits; type in "VHS" and you get 62,018.

Someone's not doing his job.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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