LOS ANGELES – A Lancaster man was sentenced yesterday in federal court for criminal 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, “The Revenant” was available for download six days before its limited release in theaters and more than 1 million people were able to download the film within a six-week period, which caused Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation to suffer losses of well over $1 million.
William Kyle Morarity, 31, who used the screen name “clutchit,” pled guilty earlier this year to felony copyright infringement and was sentenced this week by United States District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson to eight months’ home detention and 24 months’ probation. He was also ordered to pay $1.12 million in restitution to Twentieth Century Fox.
Morarity agreed to assist the FBI in the production of a public service announcement to assist the government in educating the public about the harms of copyright infringement and the illegal uploading of movies that are the legal property of the movie studio.
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 film industry creates thousands of jobs in Southern California,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The defendant’s illegal conduct caused significant harm to the victim movie studio. The fact that the defendant stole these films while working on the lot of a movie studio makes his crime more egregious.”
“Mr. Morarity used his position of trust to gain access to sensitive intellectual property, then shared that content online and incurred large-scale losses to the owner of that property,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The theft of intellectual property – in this case, major motion pictures – discourages creative incentive and affects the average American making ends meet in the entertainment industry.”
The case against Morarity was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jennie Wang.