Late last December millions of pirates cheered behind their computers as the “screener season” finally got underway.
High quality copies of some of the hottest Hollywood productions appeared online, with some titles even beating their official theatrical release.
The high-profile leaks were put on the radar of the FBI and this week the Justice Department announced that they caught one of the sources, a 31-year old entertainment industry worker.
Kyle Moriarty from Lancaster admitted to copying screeners of The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie, while working on a movie studio lot. Both copies were uploaded to the private BitTorrent tracker Pass The Popcorn (PTP) and found their way to many public sites in the following days.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Moriarty has signed a plea agreement which was submitted to a District Court last Friday.
“…defendant obtained copies of the copyright-protected films The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie. Each of the films was a “screener,” a disc containing an advance screening copy of a film, which defendant took without authorization while at work,” the agreement reads.
Moriarty copied the films onto a USB drive and took them home. After encoding the releases he uploaded The Revenant screener and The Peanuts Movie to the PTP tracker, with the username “clutchit.”
The Justice Department reports that both movies were downloaded millions of times following their early release, causing significant damage to the copyright holders.
“Over one million people have downloaded from peer-to-peer networks the version of The Revenant that defendant uploaded to the Internet. Fox has suffered losses of at least $1.12 million,” the press release states.
The plea agreement doesn’t identify Moriarty’s employer but according to The Smoking Gun he worked as a production coordinator for the “Dr. Phil” show, which shoots close to the Paramount studio.
It remains unclear how the FBI identified Moriarty us the uploader, but according to the plea agreement he uploaded the movies from his home address.
The Lancaster man doesn’t appear to be connected to the release group Hive-CM8, which uploaded the bulk of the leaked screeners last December. Hive-CM8 leaked over a dozen screeners but The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were not among their releases.
In a statement released to the public, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker applauds the enforcement efforts, stating that the leaks endangered the local entertainment industries.
“As the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend highlights, the entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California. Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property,” Decker notes.
“The defendant’s conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California,” she adds.
Moriarty is scheduled to be arraigned next month and faces a maximum prison sentence of three years.