A federal judge has ordered a California man by the name of William Morarity to pay a fine of $1.12 million to 20th Century Fox for pirating The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie, according to Variety.
Morarity, 31, from Lancaster was sentenced for felony criminal copyright infringement after he pleaded guilty to swiping screeners of the aforementioned movies when he worked at the studio while working on the set of Dr Phil. Morarity copied the movies on a portable drive and shared them on his home computer, December 17, and 19, 2015.
District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson apart from slapping Morarity with restitution sentenced him to eight months home detention. If the 31-year-old had not pleaded guilty, he was on the verge of serving a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
William Morarity under the moniker “clutchit” had uploaded The Revenant to a torrent website namely Pass the Popcorn. He had done it on Christmas day, six days before the movie was released in theaters. More than 1 million people downloaded the movie. Fox said they lost $1 million within a six-week period.
Eileen Decker, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California said the act damaged the financial prospects of 20th Century Fox.
“The defendant’s illegal conduct caused significant harm to the victim movie studio. The fact that the defendant stole these films while working on the lot of a movie studio makes his crime more egregious.”
The Revenant which starred Leornardo DiCaprio still went on to do well at the U.S. box office, grossing $183.6 million domestically and $349.3 million internationally. DiCaprio and the director, Alejandro Gonzalez both won Academy Awards for their efforts.
Morarity is also expected to help the FBI produce a public service announcement about the damages of copyright infringement and piracy.
Decker insists the battle is not going to end with Morarity. She said her office would remain committed to protecting intellectual property in the United States and continue to partner with the FBI.
“The FBI will continue to pursue those who steal intellectual property, a crime that negatively impacts the US economy, and in the case of a movie leak, victimizes everyday workers in the entertainment industry.”
The court was going to throw the book at Morarity, but later adopted a less severe penalty due to “familial circumstances.” Morarity is currently unemployed and is struggling to take care of four children, including one with autism. All his children are six years old or younger. There are doubts that William Morarity can pay this huge amount with his financial problems.
This is not the first time that an American would be ordered to pay back restitution for sharing something illegally. Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston student graduate was ordered to pay $675,000 to four record labels for illegally downloading and sharing their music.
Joel Tenenbaum admitted in court that he had illicitly downloaded and distributed 30 songs. Under the auspices of federal law, recording companies are entitled to $750-$30,000 for every infringement, but the law allows as much as $150,000 per track.
The maximum fine the Boston student could have been awarded was $4.5 million. Tenenbaum was thankful that he was not asked to pay back millions of dollars.
“That to me sends a message of ‘We considered your side with some legitimacy,”’ “$4.5 million would have been, ‘We don’t buy it at all.”’
Tenenbaum’s lawyer had referred to him as a kid and asked the jury to fine him as little as 99 cents, the same amount he would have paid, if he legally downloaded the song.
However, lawyer for the labels, Tim Reynolds dismissed the idea saying that Tenenbaum was a “hardcore, habitual, long-term infringer” who had been in the business from 1999 and knew it was the wrong thing. Tenenbaum confessed that he had downloaded and shared over 800 songs.
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