A Hollywood man has become the first person indicted on criminal piracy charges in connection with illegally videotaping films in theaters, federal prosecutors say.
Johnny Ray Gasca, 33, was indicted Wednesday on four federal criminal charges of copyright infringement, possession of a false ID and witness retaliation and threats, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
A March 13 search of Gasca’s Hollywood home turned up video duplicators, a videocam attached to a belt, a fake Social Security card and two diaries in which Gasca allegedly wrote that he had made as much as $4,500 a week selling pirated copies of movies such as “Anger Management” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.” He was first caught with a camcorder last fall during a screening of “The Core” and had been snagged several times since.
After the March 13 raid, Gasca allegedly told MPAA antipiracy investigators he would release up to 30 films not then available if they didn’t help him get back his equipment. He also allegedly told a witness she could be shot for providing information the FBI used to get its search warrant.
Gasca faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all charges. A federal magistrate denied Gasca bail after his arrest April 22 because of 89 previous arrests and a conviction for attempted murder. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
The MPAA estimates piracy costs the movie business $3 billion annually.
The trade org spearheads Hollywood’s antipiracy efforts, working with law enforcement in dozens of countries to catch major violators of copyright laws.
The rise of good-quality, compact videocameras has created a new way to pirate films by taping a movie directly off a theater screen; the tactic can be particularly lucrative when the copy is made during an advance screening. The simple process of converting such video to VHS tapes makes it possible for pirate tapes to hit the streets before the original film does.
Several companies have been developing technology to disrupt such videotaping. One approach would embed signals in a film that are undetectable by the human eye watching the movie directly but leave unwatchable visual marks in a pirate video shot fromthe same film.