NORFOLK, Va. — A California man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to willfully reproduce and distribute tens of thousands of infringing copies of copyrighted works without permission, including infringing copies of movies before they were commercially released on DVD.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Sean M. Lovelady, 28, of Pomona, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
Lovelady was indicted April 18 along with three other leading members of the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy group seeking to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of new movies only showing in theaters.
According to court documents, Lovelady and his co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Lovelady admitted that he went to movie theaters near his California residence and secretly used receivers and recording devices to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as "capping"). After obtaining, editing and filtering audio sound tracks and uploading them to servers used by the IMAGiNE Group, Lovelady used software to synchronize the audio file with an illegally obtained video file of a movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet among members of the IMAGiNE Group and others.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.
This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft.
Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by HSI special agents. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Krask of the Eastern District of Virginia and Senior Counsel John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the HSI-led IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.