A Lancaster man has agreed to plead guilty to copyright infringement for illegally posting copies of the films "The Revenant" and "The Peanuts Movie" to a website, prosecutors say.
William Kyle Morarity, 31, admitted the crime in a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
"The Revenant" was subsequently viewed online by more than 1 million people and caused distributor 20th Century Fox more than $1 million in losses, the Justice Department said.
Morarity, who used the screen name "clutchit," obtained the so-called screeners -- copies of movies that are given to Academy Award voters -- while working on a studio lot. He copied them onto a portable drive and then uploaded the movies from his home computer on Dec. 17 and 19 to a BitTorrent website called Pass the Popcorn, the department said.
"The Revenant," which has 12 Oscar nominations, including for best picture, was uploaded six days prior to its release in theaters.
"As the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend highlights, the entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California. Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property," U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker said in the statement. "The defendant's conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California."
The case was investigated by the FBI.
"The FBI will continue to pursue those who steal intellectual property, a crime that negatively impacts the U.S. economy, and in the case of a movie leak, victimizes everyday workers in the entertainment industry," said David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.
The felony offense carries a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison. Morarity will be arraigned on the charge next month in U.S. District Court.
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