A Sherman Oaks man pleaded guilty today to federal copyright infringement charges related to a scheme in which he illegally reproduced and distributed Academy Award “screeners” and various episodes of the HBO series “Sex In The City.”
William Jefferson Philputt, 33, pleaded guilty this morning to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement for selling on the Internet illegally duplicated copies of “Sex In The City.” Philputt obtained copies of the copyrighted series from DirecTV satellite feeds and other commercial sources. He then removed the copy protection features, manufactured DVDs and placed advertisements for the illegally reproduced DVDs on the E-Bay Internet auction site.
The case against Philputt resulted from an investigation into an Internet posting on Craig’s List that illegally offered for sale a copy of the film “Big Fish,” which had been nominated for an Academy Award. After a copy of the film was purchase by anti-piracy investigators for Sony Pictures, which owns the copyright to “Big Fish,” a forensic analysis revealed that it had originally been sent to a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of the Oscar-nomination process. Investigators later determined that the screener had been stolen from the Academy member prior to delivery. A federal search warrant was executed at Philputt’s residence and numerous illegal DVD copies of “Sex In The City” were seized.
Philputt pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Sterling Johnson, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on July 2. At sentencing, Philputt faces a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison.
While pleading guilty today, Philputt requested the opportunity to participate in the Anti-Piracy Education outreach program being managed by the United States Attorney’s Office. Under this program, convicted copyright offenders, their attorneys and a member of the United States Attorney’s Office visit local elementary and middle schools, providing information to students and faculty about the practical effects of movie, music and software piracy.
This is the fifth defendant in the past 30 days to be convicted in this district criminal copyright infringement charges relating to motion picture piracy.
The case against Philputt is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.