World’s First Conviction for Removing Information from DVD

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A Georgia man is facing the prospect of years in prison and fines of $750,000 after he admitted being involved in the 'camming' of movies and removing 'copyright management information' from DVDs. The cost of removing management information from a DVD in the US? 5 years in prison, 2 more than for camming movies.

In the latest of 36 convictions coming out of the FBI’s Operation Copycat, 21 year old Arshad Madhani of Duluth, Georgia is the third person to be convicted for recording or ‘camming‘ a movie in a theater.

During his plea hearing he confessed to being involved in the sourcing and distribution of movies and software. He also admitted organizing and aiding others to ‘cam’ movies still in theaters. The list of movies includes titles such as ‘Cars’, ‘Monster House’, ‘Firewall’, ‘Click’, ‘The BreakUp’ and sundry (forgettable) others. It’s claimed that the movies were then uploaded to servers for other users to download, after they had paid Madhani cash to do so.

For the camming, he’s looking at 3 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release. Unfortunately, this offense doesn’t carry the longest sentence Madhani faces – we’ll come to that in moment.

From the plea agreement, Madhani appears to be something of a jack-of-all-trades. He admits to being a ‘cammer’ – that is the willful using or directing others in the use of an audio/visual recording device to ‘cam’ or record a movie, currently protected under copyright law.

The most interesting part of the plea is where Madhani further confesses to being a ‘ripper’ by admitting to the circumvention of DVD Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Before making a new ‘master’ from which to take further copies or before uploading to the internet, Madhani removed information from the DVD such as the title, numbers and other markings which identified it as a copyright works – so-called copyright management information.

These actions put Madhani in breach of the DMCA but interestingly, he’s the very first person to be charged for simply removing so-called ‘copyright management information’ from a DVD. Previous cases were all brought for the bypassing of DVD copy-protection mechanisms.

Breaching the DMCA is a serious offense in the US. Just by changing the data held on a DVD, Madhani is facing 5 years in prison plus a $500,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Madhani also admits to being a ‘racer’, i.e working hard to be the first group or individual to release new movies or software onto the internet for others to download. There doesn’t appear to be any specific punishment for this offense although in the future, the Intellectual Property Enhanced Criminal Enforcement Act of 2007(.pdf) will surely have it covered.

Sentencing is set for Monday December 17, 2007 in San Jose, California.

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