LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two major movie studios sued an actor and longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who allegedly leaked “screener” copies of movies that were then reproduced and distributed on the Internet.

Columbia Pictures Industries and Warner Bros. filed the lawsuits against Carmine Caridi, a 20-year Academy member who has appeared in “The Godfather: Part II” and “NYPD Blue.”

Caridi, 70, has told investigators he sent VHS copies of about 60 movies he received each year to his Illinois friend, 51-year-old Russell Sprague, who used a software program to convert the VHS tape into DVD format and then sent the original tapes back to Caridi, authorities said.

Investigators said a search of Caridi’s Hollywood apartment turned up 36 original Academy screener tapes, including “The Last Samurai,” “In America,” “Shattered Glass” and “Mona Lisa Smile.”

Warner Bros. seeks damages of a minimum of $150,000 for each infringing use of its releases “The Last Samurai” and “Mystic River.” In a separate complaint, Columbia is asking for its choice between actual damages or $150,000 for each infringing use of “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Big Fish.”

Caridi’s attorney, Richard Millard, did not immediately return calls Wednesday. An attorney for Warner Bros. declined to comment. An attorney for Columbia did not return messages left late Wednesday.

Caridi has said he received no money for the films. He allegedly told investigators he believed Sprague was a film buff and merely wished to watch them.

Sprague was arrested and charged with criminal copyright infringement last week. Caridi has not been charged.

AP-ES-01-29-04 0448EST

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