A 23-year-old North Carolina man who co-founded a website offering illegal downloads has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Matthew David Howard Smith admitted that he designed many of the features of NinjaVideo that allowed visitors to obtain high-quality downloads of content, including movies that had not yet been released in theatres, as well as TV shows. The site went online in February 2008 and was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010.
An investigation into NinjaVideo is being conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in conjunction with piracy task force IPR Center. Smith said he had agreements with advertisers for NinjaVideo and that he and others involved in the site collected more than $500,000 between 2008 and 2010. NinjaVideo also invited its users to make donations and in return granted its premium members access to private forums that held more copyrighted material, according to court documents. Smith faces a maximum of five years in prison on each count, and four other alleged co-conspirators associated with the site are headed for a jury trial beginning February 6. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on December 16.
Kevin Suh, MPAA Senior Vice President of Internet Content Protection, applauded the efforts of ICE investigators, and described NinjaVideo as “a prime example of these ‘worst of the worst’ rogue websites that victimise not only the buyers of these products, but the over two million hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on the motion picture and television industry.”