WASHINGTON -- Justice Department officials announced on Thursday the first indictment under a law enacted this year that makes it a federal crime to camcord a movie.
The United States Attorney for the Northern District of California officially charged Curtis Salisbury, 19, of St. Charles, Mo., in a five-count indictment alleging that he used a camcorder in movie theaters to copy recent theatrical releases, then uploaded the copies to a computer network for distribution. Two of the counts were made under the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which President Bush signed in April.
One section of the new law, known as the Artists Rights and Theft Prevention Act, criminalizes the use of recording equipment to make copies of movies in theaters.
"Camcording movies in theaters for online distribution is a crime," U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said. "This case represents the first prosecution under the Family Entertainment Copyright Act and demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney's office and its CHIP (Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property) Unit will aggressively employ the tools provided by Congress and the president to combat the theft of intellectual property."
The statute also prohibits the infringement of a work being prepared for commercial distribution by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, where the individual knows the work was intended for commercial distribution. The indictment represents the first use of those provisions by federal prosecutors.
In addition to allegedly camcording and uploading the movies "The Perfect Man" and "Bewitched" to the warez server, the indictment also alleges Salisbury illegally downloaded the movie "Madagascar" and the software video editing programs Sony Sound Forge V8.0, Adobe Premier Pro V7.0 and Adobe Premier Pro V1.5 Proper.
MPAA president and CEO Dan Glickman said the indictment proved the need for the new law.
"Over 90% of initial releases that are pirated are a result of people camcording in movie theaters," Glickman said. "That's why we worked with Congress and the president to pass crucial legislation strengthening penalties against people who camcord movies in theaters and make them available to the public on the Internet. The creative works of the entertainment industry belong to the millions of people who make them and are not for others to steal or unlawfully distribute."
According to the indictment, Salisbury communicated with others about ways to remove identifying features on a film that reveal the originating theater. Additionally, he allegedly discussed receiving payment for the films that he would provide, indicating that he would like to be paid by money order at a post office box when the film is ready for release.
If convicted, he faces three to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 -- or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater -- as well as a three-year term of supervised release and a $100 mandatory special assessment.
The prosecution against Salisbury is part of continuing FBI investigation known locally as Operation Copycat, which to date has resulted in the indictments of five individuals in the Northern District of California and the execution of more than 40 searches nationwide. Operation Copycat is the local and largest part of the coordinated international law-enforcement action known as Operation Site Down, which is targeting online piracy.
The indictment is an indication of the seriousness which the government takes intellectual property theft, said MPAA worldwide anti-piracy director John Malcolm.
"We want to thank the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI for their efforts to crack down on movie pirates," he said. "Their attention to this growing phenomenon is crucial in our fight to protect copyrights."