When negotiations are underway with the United States for your country to enter the WTO, it pays to talk tough on intellectual property issues.
For Andrew and Natalia Lopukhovs, the former administrators of the now defunct Interfilm BitTorrent site, the timing of this year’s talks involving Russia is far from ideal.
The Moscow couple have just been charged for their role in running the site and the subsequent unlawful distribution of a sample 30 movies including Hollywood blockbusters Resident Evil 3, 28 Weeks Later and Shrek 3.
According to an announcement by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin, the Lopukhovs stand accused of violating the rights of several local and U.S. film companies including Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney and Universal.
Keeping up the tradition of only dealing with telephone number-sized amounts when referring to claimed piracy losses, the studios say that the pair cost them 38 billion rubles – a staggering $1.23 billion.
The operation against the couple goes back several years. Following complaints from movie companies and the involvement of anti-piracy group/MPA founder member RAPO, an investigation was initiated and ran between April 2007 and September 2008.
According to a source close to RAPO, their breakthrough in the case came when foreign sources furnished the anti-piracy outfit with a complete copy of the Interfilm website.
“This was not just saved pages, but also the files that stored all the data administration, including the IP-addresses of everyone who ever came to the site,” said the source. “With this information, investigators traced the Lopukhovs.”
The Lopukhovs, who used a range of aliases including Ripper, Shturman, Nadezhda and Piratka, are said to have maintained a relationship with a pirate in Germany called Sergei, known by his online alias Apple. Between them they are said to have uploaded movies to Interfilm and another site, Puzkarapuz.ru.
But by May 2009 it was all over. The Lopukhovs were raided at their Moscow home by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on claims that Interfilm was a major source of cammed movies. The site, they added, also had arrangements to supply piracy groups outside the country with the latest releases.
Interfilm was hosted at Dutch ISP LeaseWeb but was subsequently shut down. It is said to continue under new ownership at Bithouse.org. Puzkarapuz.org appears to be fully operational.
Confirming their indictments, Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin said the Lopukhovs are accused of committing crimes under Part 3 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code. While the charges carry a fine of only 500,000 rubles (around $16,200), the pair could be sentenced to a maximum of 6 years in jail. A trial date has not yet been set.