LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A week before its scheduled release, illegal copies of ``Star Wars: Episode II _ Attack of the Clones'' are already appearing on the Internet.
One copy of the movie making the rounds online appears to have been recorded at a private showing, using a tripod-mounted digital camcorder pointed at the screen, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Another copy apparently used a more sophisticated version of the same technique.
Both were distributed via Internet Relay Chat, a computer protocol that allows users to copy files at high speed from other computers on different networks.
The highly anticipated film is due in theaters May 16. Neither Lucasfilm Ltd., which produced the movie, nor 20th Century Fox Film Corp., its distributor, could immediately be reached for comment early Friday.
Industry observers said movie piracy probably will not affect box office revenues for the ``Star Wars'' sequel, but may hurt its videotape and DVD revenues.
``It's an extremely serious threat,'' said Jean Murrell Adams, head of the litigation department at DreamWorks SKG. ``I'm not surprised that it's on the Internet. I talk to pirates because I want to find out why they're doing this. And what I've been told is that they were eagerly anticipating who would be first to do this. It's a challenge for them.''
The previous ``Star Wars'' installment, ``Episode I _ The Phantom Menace,'' also was available online before its official release in May 1999. The current blockbuster ``Spider-Man'' appeared on the Internet a day before its official premiere.