Los Angeles, California - A Lancaster man has agreed to plead guilty to copyright infringement for illegally posting screener versions of two movies – “The Revenant” and “The Peanuts Movie” – to a publicly accessible website. As a result of the illegal upload, more than 1 million people were able to download “The Revenant,” which caused Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation to suffer losses of well over $1 million.
William Kyle Morarity, who used the screen name “clutchit,” 31, admitted the criminal conduct in a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court.
Morarity obtained the screeners without authorization while at work on a studio lot. He copied the screeners onto a portable drive and uploaded the movies from his home computer on December 17 and 19, 2015 to a BitTorrent website called “Pass the Popcorn,” which allowed downloading via a peer-to-peer network.
“The Revenant” was uploaded six days prior to its limited release in theaters.
“As the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend highlights, the entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California. Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The defendant’s conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California.”
“Stealing movies is not a victimless crime,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI will continue to pursue those who steal intellectual property, a crime that negatively impacts the U.S. economy, and in the case of a movie leak, victimizes everyday workers in the entertainment industry.”
Morarity agreed to plead guilty to uploading copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of three years in federal prison.
Morarity will be arraigned on the charge next month in United States District Court.
The case against Morarity is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.