Fox said Friday that as a result of the illegal upload, more than 1 million people were able to download “The Revenant,” which caused the studio to sustain losses of well over $1 million.
William Kyle Morarity, 31, used the screen name “clutchit” in uploading the screeners. He admitted to criminal conduct in a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
Morarity obtained the screeners without authorization while at work on a studio lot. He copied the screeners onto a portable drive and uploaded the movies from his home computer on Dec. 17 and 19 to a BitTorrent website called “Pass the Popcorn,” which allowed downloading via a peer-to-peer network.
“The Revenant” was uploaded six days prior to its first limited release in theaters on Christmas.
“As the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend highlights, the entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a statement. “Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property. The defendant’s conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California.”
Morarity agreed to plead guilty to uploading copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of three years in federal prison. Morarity will be arraigned on the charge next month.
“Stealing movies is not a victimless crime,” said David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. “The FBI will continue to pursue those who steal intellectual property, a crime that negatively impacts the U.S. economy, and in the case of a movie leak, victimizes everyday workers in the entertainment industry.”
The case against Morarity is the product of an FBI investigation.