April 6, 2009 -- Roger Friedman, the longtime Fox News online columnist, is no longer working for the news organization after reviewing a pirated version of the X-Men sequel "Wolverine."
"Fox News representatives and Roger Friedman met today and mutually agreed to part ways immediately," Fox News said in statement Monday. "Fox News appreciates Mr. Friedman's ten years of contributions to building foxnews.com and wishes him success in his future endeavors. Mr. Friedman is grateful to his colleagues for their friendship and support over the past decade."
Two Web sites, The Huffington Post and Gawker, reported that Friedman was scheduled to meet this morning with Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief, and John Moody, his executive vice president for editorial, to plead his case for keeping his job and online column "Fox 411."
ABCNews.com reported Sunday that Friedman was fired after News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, advised the news outlet to terminate Friedman for reviewing a leaked copy of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
The highly anticipated movie was produced by 20th Century Fox, which is also owned by News Corp.
The film starring Hugh Jackman isn't due to hit to theaters until next month but a leaked copy surfaced online Wednesday.
"Roger Friedman's views in no way reflect the views of News Corp. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corp., have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy," the company said in a statement issued Sunday.
"When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman," it said.
But when contacted by ABCNews.com, Friedman, who has been with Fox News for 13 years, said, "There was no action taken against me."
When reached this morning by ABCNews.com, Friedman referred any questions to a Fox News representative.
Friedman apparently gave the unfinished movie, which is scheduled to open May 1, high marks, according to New York magazine.
"I doubt anyone else has seen this film. But everyone can relax. I am, in fact, amazed about how great 'Wolverine' turned out. It exceeds expectations at every turn," he said, according to the magazine's Web site.
Now that the film has been leaked online, analysts estimate that thousands of people may have already seen the movie and that it could affect the movie's bottom line. Once a film hits peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, stamping out all clips and incarnations of it can be difficult.
"We immediately contacted the appropriate authorities and had it removed," 20th Century Fox Film, the film's distributor, said earlier in a statement.
FBI Working With Fox to Uncover Source of the Leak
Fox said it plans to determine the source of the leak through forensic means.
"The FBI and the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] also are actively investigating this crime. We are encouraged by the support of fan sites condemning this illegal posting," Fox said.
According to Fox, the leaked copy was missing many special effects and included temporary sound and music -- but Friedman wasn't the only one to watch the film and review it online.
The blog In GOB We Trust panned the movie, saying it didn't live up to its comic book origins.
"I just am so disappointed with this movie," blog co-founder Chris Lemke wrote. "They seemed to have all the tools to make this work and instead decided to dumb it down and essentially make a cartoon. … After this one, I don't have much hope for the rest of the franchise. If you are set on watching this, good luck."
Could 'Wolverine's' Bottom Line Suffer?
The leak of "Wolverine" is the latest instance of what's become a problem for the movie industry. In 2005, eight people were charged with copyright-infringement offenses related to the leaking of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith."
In 2003, Universal's "Hulk" emerged on the Internet two weeks before its theatrical release. The film still raked in $62 million in its opening weekend, but a week later its haul dwindled to $19 million.
"Hulk" ended up being a financial failure, not grossing enough to cover its $137 million production budget -- though that may have been due more to a poor critical and audience reception rather than the Internet leak.
Considering "Hulk's" fate, if the "Wolverine" leak doesn't generate an onslaught of bad reviews like the one by Lemke, it stands to reason that the film will do just fine at the box office.
"In some ways, this is sort of like 'X-Men 4,' and when you get to the fourth installment of any series, you can have audience erosion," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com. "So this movie really needs to excite the fan base."
People Still May Want to See 'X-Men' Flick on Big Screen
"Fox wants to show off this film in its best possible light, and this takes away some of their ability to market the film effectively, but seeing it in its unfinished version may just whet the appetite for people to see it again on the big screen," said Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Hollywood.com. "People are still going to want to go and see this movie the way it was meant to be seen."