Following an investigation carried out by the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), police in Northern Ireland raided a Londonderry home in May 2011.
They were searching for Paul Mahoney, the operator of streaming links site FastPassTV and discussion and linking forum BedroomMedia. Police arrested Mahoney while seizing computer equipment and cash totaling £83,000.
After being charged in February 2015, Mahoney pleaded not guilty. Several months later, however, he had a change of heart.
At a June hearing the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to all four charges against him including allowing the public to view copyrighted movies without rightsholder permission, conspiracy, and generating up to £300,000 in advertising revenue.
During a pre-sentence hearing last month, Judge Philip Babington was told by the prosecution that Mahoney could have cost the movie industry £120 million.
Mahoney appeared at Londonderry Crown Court this morning at 11:00am for sentencing and it’s bad news for the partially sighted man. The Court sentenced Mahoney to four years in prison, two of which will be spent on license.
“These offenses represent offending which undoubtedly put at risk very many millions of pounds as far as the greater entertainment industry was concerned,” Judge Philip Babington said.
“Offending such as this affects everyone in society at the end of the day although primarily the interests of those involved in film production, the results of which we all enjoy.”
Judge Babington said that Mahoney had put together “a very sophisticated scheme” which had allowed people to “view films on very many millions of occasions for nothing” while generating money from advertising.
He added that he had been left with no other alternative than to pass a custodial sentence “to show that behavior of this nature does not go unpunished.”
FACT Director General Kieron Sharp said that the case was an important one.
“Committing crime using the Internet is viewed by some as being less serious than more ‘traditional’ offending, which is particularly true of film and television piracy. This prosecution and sentence show that you cannot hide behind the supposed anonymity of the cyber world and that you will be identified, caught and convicted,” Sharp said.
PSNI investigating officer Detective Constable Yolande Healey said that Mahoney had been operating his sites for years.
“He thought he could collect substantial amounts of advertising revenue from his site and distance himself from the actual hosting of an illicit copy of a film by using unrelated third party websites,” Healey said.
“From his bedroom in Carnhill, Mahony thought he could make money from advertisers who were attracted by the volume of traffic from across the world on his website. He thought his form of cyber-crime was untouchable. He was wrong. Working with partner agencies, police will investigate any reports of criminality online.”
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