LOS ANGELES – A Lancaster man pleaded guilty Wednesday to copyright infringement for illegally posting screener versions of triple Oscar winner “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 Corp. 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 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
He pleaded 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.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson set a June 13 sentencing hearing.
An attorney for Morarity could not immediately be reached.
Morarity, 31, obtained the screeners without authorization while at work on a studio lot, according to his plea agreement.
Morarity copied the screeners onto a portable drive and uploaded 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.
Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said the “entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California. Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property.”
Morarity’s “conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California,” she said.
Previous related story: AV man charged with illegal distribution of hit films on the Internet