Two men arrested on suspicion of leaking action movie The Expendables 3 online before its official release date have been questioned by detectives from the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and released on bail until May 2015.
Detectives from the City of London Police unit arrested a 36 year old man at his home in Upton, Wirral and a 33 year old man at his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire with support from uniformed officers from Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police.
The investigation was launched following a referral from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on behalf of the movie’s distribution studio, Lionsgate Films.
The film features an array of famous actors, including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger and was set to hit the big screen in cinemas in the US on 15 August 2014. However, around the 25 July 2014, a high-quality version of the film appeared on the Internet.
The pair are believed to have stolen the film from a cloud based system before uploading it on to the Internet. In the UK it is believed the leaked the Lionsgate/Millennium film was viewed hundreds of thousands of times which subsequently has had a significant financial impact on Lionsgate and Millennium Films, costing them millions of pounds in the UK alone.
Matthew Etre, the US Embassy London’s Attaché for US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said the arrests should serve as a warning shot across the bow of online pirates. “Internet crooks don’t pay wages or taxes. They don’t fund pensions and healthcare plans. They don’t invest in new movies or write new scripts. All they do is get rich at the expense of those who do and we’re determined to hold them accountable,” he declared.
Head of PIPCU, Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medlycott said the operation showed the significant impact intellectual property crime has on the creative industries, with millions of pounds being lost as a result of criminal actions. “The public need to be aware that piracy is not a victimless crime. By downloading illegal music, film, TV and books, not only are you exposing your own computer to the risk of viruses and malware, but you are also putting hard-working people’s livelihoods at risk as piracy threatens the security of thousands of jobs in the UK’s creative industries,” he stated.
Avi Lerner, producer of The Expendables 3 and chairman of Millennium Films, confirmed in September 2014 that the studio was pursuing individuals who downloaded pirated copies of the movie, sending out legal letters asking for a settlement to holders of IP addresses in lieu of more substantial damages should they take cases to trial, reported trade daily Variety. According to Lerner, after the movie was leaked prior to its theatrical opening, it was downloaded illegally by more than 10 million people. “That was 10 million people who stole the movie. We want to go after those 10 million people,” he averred.
Stallone spoke out in July about the effect of piracy on the industry, warning that people involved would lose their jobs. Interviewed by the UK’s Sky News as part of the promotional tour for action sequel, Stallone said: “I understand people want to get something for nothing. Who doesn’t? But it affects the fact that studios will start to lose confidence and they won’t put big, big numbers in and a lot of people lose their jobs. It’s a ripple effect.”
PIPCU is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the National Lead Force for Fraud. It is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.
The operationally independent unit launched in September 2013 with funding from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) until June 2015. It was recently announced that PIPCU will receive a further £3 million from the IPO to fund the unit up to 2017.