The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers:The Hollywood Reporter reports that the illegal sale of bootleg copies of the Oscar screener of The Lord Of The Ring: The Two Towers is flooding the market place in Europe.

Perfect pirated DVD copies of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," cloned from special Oscar screener discs supplied by the studios to MPAA members in the United States, are circulating in the United Kingdom, the Federation Against Copyright Theft said. Complete with 5.1 surround sound, the DVDs' only blemish is a "for your consideration" Oscar message that pops up every 15 minutes.

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"I think it is extremely disappointing that people involved in the industry have let copies of Academy screeners go astray," FACT director general David Lowe said. Lowe reported that FACT already has seized 40,000 counterfeit discs -- including more than 10,000 copies of "Two Towers" -- this month to date. He said he expects that figure to rise considerably by the end of the month, which traditionally is a quiet month for piracy.

In 2002, FACT seized 700,000 optical discs. The problem of Oscar screeners is not new, and some distributors are wary of supplying screeners to members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, whose awards are set for Feb. 23. "It's just feeding the pirates," one exec said. Lowe said the problem at the moment is confined to U.S.-derived screeners.

"I have seen nothing to suggest BAFTA screeners are the source of these pirates," he said. "However, it is something we have warned about in the past, and another warning now would be timely to members of BAFTA." MPAA chief Jack Valenti was philosophical about the news Friday. "This is all part of the perils and the hazards of going into the digital world," he said, attributing such piracy to "corrupt" individuals. "It's happened before; it will happen again. But we will find a way to thwart these thieves."

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