Feds feed courts with movie piracy arrests

Authorities net first conviction with new anticamcording law

It was a busy day for the feds on the antipiracy beat Tuesday as authorities nabbed a SAG member who illegally shared a screener that ended up on the Internet, arrested several people who shared a copy of “Star Wars: Episode III” taken from a post-production facility and netted their first conviction under the anticamcording law Congress passed earlier this year.

Ronald Redding, a SAG member from Maryland who agreed to accept a screener for last year’s guild awards, pleaded guilty to willfully infringing a film copyright when he shared his copy of “Million Dollar Baby” with others.

Pic ultimately ended up on the Internet, though it’s doesn’t appear in the plea that Redding was aware the film was pirated online. However, a watermark allowed authorities to trace the copy back to the thesp.

But because he signed a contract with SAG agreeing not to share his screeners with anyone else, he’s still criminally liable. Under a plea bargain, authorities are recommending he face no more than six months in prison as well as a fine that could reach as high as $100,000.

But that won’t be the end of Redding’s headaches. A rep for Warner Bros. said the studio plans to file a civil action. Maximum allowable penalty in such a suit is $150,000.

Also pleading guilty to a piracy charge was Curtis Salisbury of Missouri, who admitted to camcording theatrical screenings of “Bewitched” and “The Perfect Man.” In addition, he pleaded guilty to uploading the illegal copies to a computer network for distribution.

Under the Family Entertainment & Copyright Act of 2005, which contains a provision making the unauthorized recording of a movie via handheld technology a federal crime, Salisbury faces a maximum $250,000 fine for each offense and as many as eight years in prison.

In a separate case, FBI agents in L.A. arrested eight people who got their hands on and then shared a copy of “Star Wars: Episode III” stolen from a post-production facility shortly before the pic opened in May.

Film was allegedly taken by Albert Valente and distributed through several friends before it finally made its way to Joel Dimaano and Marc Hoaglin, who worked at MGM’s IT department.

Hoaglin allegedly put the film on the Internet, for which he could face up to three years in prison. Dimaano, Valente and five others who allegedly passed the pic between themselves could face up to one year in prison.

Pic was located online by investigators employed by Fox to track down pirated copies. Studio passed on information — including an IP address leading to Hoaglin — to the FBI.

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