Oscar Voters Could Be Expelled for Campaign Excesses

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Academy Awards (search) voters could be kicked out under new rules intended to tone down aggressive Oscar (search) campaigning.

The new penalty -- expulsion or suspension from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (search) -- is aimed mainly at studio executives and staff who oversee efforts to position their films for Oscar contention. But it also could apply to nominees themselves, including actors, directors and writers.

The academy issued the tougher rules Wednesday to curtail increasingly combative campaigning as studios blanket the industry with ads, DVD and videotape copies of films and special screenings.

Previously called "guidelines," the code of conduct now comes under the tougher heading of "regulations."

The possibility of forfeiting academy membership adds personal consequences for violating Oscar rules, said Frank Pierson (search), academy president. In the past, the most common penalty was taking some tickets to the Oscar ceremony away from a studio.

Losing Oscar tickets "is not an effective deterrent. It's a slap on the wrist," Pierson said. "But the issue of being booted out of the academy or having your membership suspended is a real issue for any member."

The academy also added a rule prohibiting quotes from academy members in movie ads. Distributor Miramax vexed competitors before this year's Oscars by running newspaper ads that reprinted an opinion column by Oscar-winning director Robert Wise that praised nominee Martin Scorsese for "Gangs of New York."

There were similar instances in past years where academy members wound up quoted in movie ads, said Richard Kahn, who heads the academy committee that revised the rules.

"It was very apparent to us that this was a new campaign technique that if allowed to continue unfettered could really get out of hand," Kahn said.