Placing unreleased movies onto the Internet whilst located in the UK is a risky business and one likely to attract the attention of anti-piracy companies if done on a large-scale.
FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, are particularly vigilant in this area and have launch numerous investigations into those it believes have infringed their movie partners’ copyrights.
On February 1 2013, FACT announced that they had joined police officers from the Economic Crime Unit to carry out raids in the UK targeting four addresses in the West Midlands.
Following a hearing in September 2014, the case was heard in Wolverhampton Crown Court this week. It’s the culmination of three years’ investigative work by FACT into the “source and supply” of copyrighted movies.
The accused are: Graeme Reid, 40, from Chesterfield, Scott Hemming, 25, and Reece Baker, 22, both from Birmingham, Sahil Rafiq, 24, of Wolverhampton and Ben Cooper, 33, of Willenhall.
In line with previous FACT-led prosecutions, copyright infringement is completely off the table. All men pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud a charge that previously saw SurfTheChannel’s Anton Vickerman jailed for four years.
In an earlier FACT press release the men were referred to as members of The Scene but one of the accused informs TorrentFreak that simply isn’t true.
“They say we were in The Scene – no, we were P2P,” he said.
Unless other connections come out in court, his claims appear to be true.
TorrentFreak has learned that the investigation spanned several BitTorrent-based release groups including 26K, RemixHD and UNiQUE, plus torrent sites Unleashthe.net (the site run by busted US-based release group IMAGiNE) and TheResistance.
Nevertheless, the case marks the first time that a group of movie releasers have ever gone to court in the UK and the signs are not promising for the men. Big numbers are being thrown around including the unauthorized release of up to 9,000 movies alongside claims that up to five million people may have viewed them.
At the end of the hearing the men were released on bail. They’re now in the hands of FACT’s private prosecution and whatever the court decides is an appropriate sentence following their guilty pleas. The extent of both will be revealed at a hearing later in the year.