Chicago man could face three years in prison

The FBI filed a criminal complaint Friday against a Chicago man who has admitted he illegally uploaded to the Web the first four episodes of this season’s “24,” a week before the show premiered on Fox.

Jorge Romero could face up to three years in federal prison. The FBI has accused Romero of uploading the first two segs of “24” to the LiveDigital.com Web site on Jan. 6 and the second two on Jan. 7.

An FBI press release said Romero admitted to agents on April 4 that he found the four pirated “24” episodes on another, unnamed Web site and then uploaded them to LiveDigital.com. He also posted links to the uploads on other sites in order to expand their reach.

Romero is not accused of originally pirating the episodes, but rather of distributing the unauthorized episodes to a broad audience, according to the complaint: “Romero is charged in the criminal complaint with uploading copyrighted material to a publicly accessible computer network knowing the work was intended for commercial distribution,” the FBI said.

In an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, News Corp. said it discovered the pirated episodes on Jan. 8, the day after Romero uploaded the second batch. The company later sent a subpoena to LiveDigital in order to identify the culprit.

Twentieth Century Fox TV, producer of “24,” issued a statement thanking the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A. for “aggressively pursuing this matter.”

“We hope it will serve as a powerful warning that uploading copyrighted TV shows and movies to the Internet can be a crime with significant penalties and will be prosecuted as such,” the studio said. “Video-hosting sites such as LiveDigital.com and YouTube are not copyright-free zones, and individuals like Jorge Romero who post episodes of television shows, particularly before they are even broadcast for the first time, will face harsh civil and criminal sanctions.”

The networks and studios have aggressively targeted sites such as YouTube in recent months in order to remove unauthorized programming, with Viacom filing a $1 billion complaint against the video-sharing site.

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