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Movie Pirate Ordered to Pay Columbia $309,600

December 03, 2004|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

A Chicago man has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $309,600 to Sony Pictures Entertainment's Columbia Pictures unit for illegally copying two movies and distributing them via the Internet.

Russell Sprague, 52, was sued by Columbia Pictures in January for pirating two films the studio was pushing during the last Oscar season, "Something's Gotta Give" and "Big Fish."

Sentencing for Sprague, who pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges, is scheduled for Dec. 20.

The default civil judgment, ruled on by U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles, orders Sprague to pay Columbia Pictures $150,000 per title. He also must pay $9,600 in attorney fees.

The judgment against Sprague comes on the heels of a similar decision handed down last week against Carmine Caridi, a 70-year-old actor and former member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Caridi admitted lending Sprague his Oscar movie "screeners" to make copies. Caridi was ordered to pay Sony and Warner Bros. more than $600,000 in damages.

"It's gratifying to see the courts taking this issue as seriously as we do," said Beth Berke, Sony executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

A separate suit that Warner Bros. filed against Sprague for allegedly copying "The Last Samurai" and "Mystic River" is pending.

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