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Online Movie Piracy Group Leader Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Online Movie Piracy Group Leader Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

The former leader of now-defunct Internet movie piracy group IMAGiNE was sentenced Jan. 3 to five years in federal prison, the longest sentencing in a file-sharing case in U.S. history.

Jeramiah B. Perkins was given a 60-month prison term followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution, for his role in illegally pirating and distributing movies online. He will also be banned from owning or operating “any electronic device with the capability or reproducing and distributing copies of copyrighted materials.”

A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America testified during the trial that “the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011,” the U.S. Department of Justice revealed in a statement.

According to court documents, Perkins and his partners illegally made separate audio and video recordings of new releases in movie theaters, synched the audio tracks with the video files, and shared the completed product online. One of IMAGiNE’s goals was reportedly to be the first to make new films available, while they were still in theaters and before the DVD was released. The group rented servers in France, Canada, and the U.S., hosted several websites, and sold pirated movies to buyers around the world.

MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said the piracy group “was responsible for more than 40 percent of all English-language theatrical movie theft. This group was the most prolific English-language movie theft group in history, and shutting it down was a huge step forward in helping to reassure consumers that the movies and TV shows they watch online are legitimate and secure, not stolen. This was a significant victory in the effort to protect the hard work of creators online, and in the effort to protect an Internet that works for everyone.”

IMAGiNE was shut down by the FBI in late 2011. The Justice Department indicted Perkins last April, and he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on Aug. 29, 2012. Four other IMAGiNE members have also pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. Sean M. Lovelady, Willie O. Lambert, and Gregory A. Cherwonik were sentenced in November to prison terms ranging from 23 to 40 months, and Javier E. Ferrer is due to be sentenced March 14.

As Hollywood and the U.S. government continue to crack down on copyright infringement, a new report by USC's Annenberg Innovation Lab finds that online ad networks, including Google and Yahoo, actually help support illegal file sharing by placing ads on pirate sites. And according to another recent study, “advertising financed 86 percent of the peer-to-peer search sites that feature illegally distributed content.”

“We have not seen a copy of this report and don’t know the methodology, but to the extent it suggests that Google ads are a major source of funds for major pirate sites, we believe it is mistaken,” a Google spokesperson told Marketing Land. “Over the past several years, we’ve taken a leadership role in this fight, partnering with industry organizations to cut off the flow of money to piracy sites, as well as investing significant time and money to keep copyright-infringing content out of our network.”

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