June 26, 2003 11:54 AM

Kerry Gonzalez, 24, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday to making an unauthorized digital copy of “The Hulk” and showing the copyrighted movie on the Internet, reports Reuters.

He reportedly faces a possible maximum three-year prison term for his felony copyright infringement. He is currently free on a $25,000 personal bond until his Sept. 26 sentencing date.

The New York Times described Gonzalez’s demeanor in the courtroom as contrite. After the hearing (to which he wore a “Hulk”-colored green suit), he admitted to reporters that he has never even seen the movie, according to Reuters.

According to the legal complaint filed by Universal Studios, Gonzalez was allegedly able to get his hands on the advance print of the comic-book adaptation about two and a half weeks before its June 20 release, when the studio sent a print to a Manhattan advertising agency.

(Gonzalez works in the insurance business, and an acquaintance in the ad firm loaned the print to Gonzalez, The Times reports.)

That particular print was of lesser quality than a finished film, and was still missing some key special effects and portions of its soundtrack.

But what it reportedly did contain was an embedded security tag, which Gonzalez said in court that he attempted to remove with his home computer before, as he confessed, he later uploaded the work print on June 6 to an Internet movie chat room hosted from the Netherlands.

From there, the film was seen around the world, and chat-room critics tore the movie apart. But the tag also allowed investigators to track down the print and finger Gonzalez.

Last week, before Gonzalez’s apprehension, the Los Angeles Times reported that Universal executives were concerned about the growing poor word of mouth caused by the illegal Web preview.

It didn’t seem to do too much damage. Last Friday, the $150 million “Hulk” — directed by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and starring young Australian hunk Eric Bana — opened to mixed reviews but strong opening weekend business, making nearly $63 million.

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