LOS ANGELES – A Lancaster man on Friday agreed to plead guilty to copyright infringement for illegally posting screener versions of Oscar front-runner “The Revenant” and “The Peanuts Movie” to a file-sharing 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
William Kyle Morarity, who used the screen name “clutchit,” admitted the criminal conduct in a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Morarity, 31, obtained the screeners without authorization while at work on a studio lot, according to his plea agreement.
An attorney for Morarity could not immediately be reached.
Morarity admitted copying the screeners onto a portable drive and uploading the movies from his home computer on Dec. 17 and 19 to a BitTorrent website called Pass the Popcorn, which allowed downloading via a peer-to-peer network, according to court documents.
“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,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.
“Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property,” she said. “The defendant’s conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California.”
Morarity agreed to plead guilty to uploading copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, a felony offense that carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison, prosecutors said.
“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 will be arraigned on the charge next month in Los Angeles federal court.