Internet piracy group leader sentenced to five years in prison

Jeramiah Perkins led IMAGiNE Group, which secretly recorded movies in theaters and offered them online

The leader of a U.S. online piracy group that covertly recorded movies showing in theaters and offered them online has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Jeramiah Perkins headed a group that called itself "IMAGiNE," which used camcorders as well as FM and infrared receivers to capture video and audio of movies, according to an indictment filed April last year in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he was sentenced Thursday. The captured files were then uploaded to the group's servers and later pieced together and edited to reproduce the movies.

"The conspirators informally identified themselves as the IMAGiNE Group and sought, among other things, to be the premier group to first release to the Internet copies of new motion pictures only showing in movie theaters," the indictment said.

The group was active from around September 2009 through September 2011, with evidence filed in court showing they worked together to capture movies such as "Clash of the Titans," "Iron Man 2" and "the Sorcerer's Apprentice." Torrents from the group were tagged with its "IMAGiNE" moniker.

Perkins, who also received a US$15,000 fine, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Other members of the group have received prison terms of 23, 30 and 40 months, with a fifth defendant to be sentenced in March.

Online messages between group members and those using their forum discussed how to capture films, including advice such as putting video cameras inside a black sock for use in theaters. Messages from Perkins talked about using FM receivers and infrared receivers to get audio, and contacting theaters to get information about what kind of equipment would work.

"I called every local cinema to see what they broadcasted in," he wrote, according to the indictment, which also quoted him as making up a story about a hearing impaired daughter to get access to special audio at theaters.

The group sometimes received payments over PayPal of several hundreds of dollars for copies of current movies. Members were also accused of the more common charge of seeding torrents of films such as Avatar and downloading illegal copies of films.

The group ran domains such as unleashthe.net and pure-imagination.info, and offered discussion forums, torrent information, and information for making donations. It rented servers in locations including the U.S., France and Canada.

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