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Bootleg Website Boss Defrauded US Film Industry

The eminence grise behind websites which were used to download millions of copies of films and television shows in wholesale breach of copyright is facing ruin after the High Court found him guilty of conspiring to defraud the US film industry.

The businessman was brought to book by the Motion Picture Association of America Inc., whose members include all the big Hollywood studios. He was left facing crushing damages and costs bills after the Court found that he had used his various ‘corporate creatures’ to siphon off huge sums generated by unlawful downloads.

His original website had been shut down as a result of previous court proceedings; however, it was later ‘reincarnated’ in a very similar form. The businessman denied having anything to do with the new website, but he was damned by more than 1,000 pages of online ‘chat logs’ uncovered by the film studios.

The Court found that the logs were accurate records of private online conversations and proved beyond doubt that much of the businessman’s evidence was ‘untruthful’ and that much of his defence ‘rested on a foundation of lies’. The logs revealed that, far from abandoning his infringing activities after the first website’s closure, he had taken steps to ensure that those activities continued ‘more or less seamlessly’.

He had ‘masterminded and directed all the actions’ of the websites and the Court observed, “If ever there was a clear case of a company director intending, procuring and sharing a common design to commit an infringement with the company, and making it his own, then this is it.” The fact that he was primarily motivated by making money for himself did not take away from the damage that he had caused to the film studios.

The Court concluded that the businessman and companies associated with him had engaged in an ‘unlawful means conspiracy’ to infringe the film studios’ copyrights and to defraud them. The amount of damages and costs he will have to pay was left over for assessment on another day.