Deadline Hollywood brings us the news that Gilberto Sanchez, a 49 year old Bronx resident, was sentenced yesterday to 1 year in federal prison for uploading a copy of “Wolverine” to MegaUpload one month before the film’s theatrical release.
“The federal prison sentence handed down in this case sends a strong message of deterrence to would-be internet pirates,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation.”
The ruling comes amid vigorous debate about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would give the film and music industry far reaching new powers to combat illegal uploads of copyrighted material. Venture capitalists and tech companies, along with many of the original architects of the internet, have argued that SOPA would undermine innovation on the web and fundamentally threaten the security and stability of the internet.
The case highlights the conundrum of policing the web. Deadline Hollywood quotes from the court documents. “Although Fox was able to get defendant’s Wolverine Workprint removed from his Megaupload account within approximately one day, by then, the damage was done and the film had proliferated like wildfire throughout the internet, resulting in up to millions of infringements.”
MegaUpload, you might have heard, is currently suing Universal over an alleged “sham” takedown of a Youtube video that show pop stars like Kanye West and Will.i.am singing the praises of Hong Kong based file sharing service.
In the comment section on the original article, a number of readers applauded the sentence. Others, despite working in the film industry, were taken aback.
“Jesus, you make me embarrassed to admit we work in the same industry. No, this wasn’t too lenient a sentence. This was far too harsh a sentence. When our “solution” to piracy is prison and attempted censorship of the entire internet, maybe we’re taking light entertainment a little too seriously. Especially when the kind of real criminal behavior that decimates the middle class is what actually hurts our industry – and yet on that topic we’re silent. So yes, while people are losing their houses, jobs, retirements, and families, let’s crow about how someone getting a year in prison for uploading a mediocre franchise sequel is “to lenient” – because we don’t have enough problems with our audiences (aka customers) thinking that we’re out of touch, greedy bastards already.”
Despite the pirate copy that hit the net one month before its release, “Wolverine” opened at number one in the box office and went on to gross more than $370 million worldwide.