Four UK men who ran a file-sharing website which leaked films online – sometimes before they were released in cinemas – have received custodial or suspended sentences.
Steven Pegram, Mark Rollin, Paul Taylor and Alan Stephenson were part of a group which uploaded films online for others to download via BitTorrent on their website ‘thefoundary.name’.
The men obtained The Expendables 3 in July 2014 and uploaded it ahead of its cinema release in the US on August 15th.
Their actions caused a loss of around £1.5 million to producers Lionsgate Films. They also defrauded members of the Motion Picture Association of America including Paramount, Sony, Walt Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers.
Pegram was sentenced to four-and-a-half years imprisonment; Rollin to three years imprisonment. Taylor and Stephenson both received two year prison sentences, suspended for 24 months.
Pegram owned the site and paid for its servers along with Taylor and both uploaded films for sharing. Rollin had encoded and uploaded numerous films to the site and had 47 high quality films on his computer. Stephenson set up and maintained the website.
Are You Here from Millennium Entertainment and Third Person by Sony Entertainment were found on Rollin’s computer before they had been released in cinemas in November and December 2014. Other files found included 22 Jump Street, Transformers Age of Extinction and audio files of Bad Neighbours and Godzilla.
The estimated loss to the movie industry of the group uploading and sharing Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past alone was almost £4 million.
Leigh Webber, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “These defendants set up and ran a site which allowed users to download films for free via BitTorrent, including the Expendables 3 before its release in the cinema. All of them had clear knowledge of what the site was used for and were well aware they were breaching the copyright of the production companies. The CPS showed the court the numerous files on computers seized from the defendants and the payments they had made to keep the site up and running. Evidence also showed that the harm caused to members of the Motion Picture Association totalled around £7 million.”
Rollin and Stephenson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the copyright owners of works including or contained within films and the proprietors of trademarks contained within or accompanying the said works. Pegram and Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on the first day of their trial on December 3rd 2018.