A man accused of helping to illegally post movies for Oscar screeners on the Internet has pleaded innocent to federal charges.

A man accused of helping to illegally post movies for Oscar screeners on the Internet has pleaded innocent to federal charges.

Russell William Sprague, 51, of Homewood, Ill., is scheduled to be tried March 30 on charges of conspiracy and copyright infringement. FBI agents arrested Sprague last month at his suburban Chicago home.

His arrest marked the first for pirating of the so-called "screener" copies of films supplied in advance to Academy Award voters, federal agents said.

Sprague was charged with conspiring to violate copyrights on "The Last Samurai," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and "The Matrix Revolutions."

He also was charged with making equipment designed to download and decode satellite-to-home television signals without paying for them.

Sprague has denied putting movies on the Internet.

Federal agents said in court papers that the investigation began when Hollywood studios traced pirated versions of the movies to actor Carmine Caridi. Caridi, an Academy member, admitted in an affidavit he sent friend and movie buff Sprague copies of several movies.


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