The following statement just arrived in our mailbox direct from 20th Century Fox:

"We've just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com - an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox -- watched on the internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of X-Men Orgins: Wolverine. This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically -- whether the review is good or bad."

Okay.  That's a start.  The big question that I've been discussing with other webmasters all afternoon is just how far Fox is going to follow this.  I know that Fox News and 20th Century Fox are technically separate companies, but they're both under the News Corp. banner, meaning everyone eventually answers to Rupert Murdoch.

It is my sincere belief that there is only one course of action for Fox News and 20th Century Fox to take here.  It's clear.  It's simple.  And it puts the matter to bed.

Fire Roger Friedman.

[more after the jump]

Don't punish him.  Don't sanction him.  Fire him.  Cut all corporate ties to him.  Permanently.  He may have taken the article down, but you can still easily read it via Google caching.

I believe that if any webmaster at any fansite had reviewed it, the results would have involved legal action.  I think Fox was very clear about that, and they've certainly been litigious about their materials in the past in much less extreme circumstances.  But since we not only refused to review it but also to publish any reactions to it from anyone else, and since the same thing happened at Ain't It Cool and CHUD and at most of the other major geek sites, Fox is in an awkward position here.  We all respected the law.  We all chose to do the right thing.

And your own employee screwed you.  And more than that... he practically cackled about doing it.  He not only talked about downloading "Wolverine," he went on to advise people how to download the top ten films at the box-office this week, and mentioned that he planned to watch "I Love You, Man" at home tonight to avoid the rain.

This is criminal.  It's blatantly criminal, and it's the sort of behavior that would be punished if it was anyone else.

Fire Roger Friedman.

Fox's statement suggests that they had no part in Friedman's decision to publish, which refutes the theory that this was spin control.  And you know what?  I believe that.  I think if Fox really had wanted to use Friedman for spin control, they would have flown him to LA and shown him the finished film with all the reshoots in place and the FX finished.  And that would have been fine.  It's their film.  They can show it to whoever they want.  No one could have said a word.

But Friedman crossed a line, a LEGAL line, and he bragged about doing it after Fox had said earlier this week that they will prosecute anyone who downloads or distributes the movie.

Prove it.

Fire Roger Friedman.

We'll be watching.

UPDATE - 10:00 PM PST:

NewsCorp has also issued a statement now.

Statement regarding Roger Friedman's column on FoxNews.com promoting a pirated version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Los Angeles, Calif., April 3, 2009 -- "Roger Friedman's views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. Once we learned of Roger Friedman's post we asked Fox News to remove it, which they did immediately."

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

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