Pirate of Hulk Movie Caught - Guilty plea may mean 3 years

Today, Kerry Gonzalez, the individual who posted The Hulk Movie on the Internet prior to its release, pled guilty to felony copyright infringement.

After learning that a version of its film, The Hulk, had become available for illegal downloading on the Internet two weeks before its theatrical release, Universal initiated an immediate investigation and then referred the matter to the FBI. The Department of Justice took immediate action on the matter and today, Kerry Gonzalez, the individual who posted The Hulk on the Internet, pled guilty to felony copyright infringement; he faces a sentence of up to three years in federal prison.

"We are deeply grateful to the FBI and the Department of Justice for their prompt action in finding and punishing the individual responsible for posting a version of 'The Hulk' on the Internet," said Karen Randall, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Vivendi UNIVERSAL Entertainment.

"This investigation proves decisively that the Internet is not an anonymous place, and illegal conduct is transparent and traceable. Universal Studios will pursue aggressively and hold accountable to the fullest extent of the law those who steal or abuse its intellectual property by illegally uploading or downloading it on the Internet."

Rick Finkelstein, President and Chief Operating Officer, Universal Pictures, added, "It took almost two years to complete the 'The Hulk.' Given the extraordinary level of talent, significant cost and tireless effort that went into creating this outstanding entertainment experience, we believe 'The Hulk' and all of our films deserve to be enjoyed in their optimal form and environment. Unfortunately, there is a small group of people who feel it is acceptable to steal our copyrighted films and make them available for free. Obviously, if this behavior went unchecked, we would not be able to produce and deliver films of the caliber of 'The Hulk' to the movie going public at large. We owe it to our filmmakers and to the millions and millions of law abiding citizens who enjoy the movie-going experience week in and week out as one of their primary forms of entertainment to aggressively pursue those responsible for the theft of our property, and we intend to do just that."

Copyright infringement bad; Hulk smash!

By David Becker
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
June 25, 2003, 2:38 PM PT

Don't make a U.S. attorney angry--you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

A New Jersey man learned that the hard way Wednesday, and faces up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fine after pleading guilty to distributing a pirated copy of "The Hulk," the tale of wayward scientist who turns into a machinery-smashing monster whenever he gets mad.

Kerry Gonzalez of Hamilton, N.J., pled guilty to felony copyright infringement charges in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.

About two weeks before the movie's public premier on June 20, Gonzalez obtained a videotape of an advance "work print" of the movie from a friend who worked at an advertising agency connected with the film, according to the complaint filed by U.S. Attorney James Comey. Gonzalez copied the movie to his home computer and used software tools to defeat security protections embedded in the movie to prevent unauthorized duplication.

Gonzalez had a satisfactory digital copy by June 6, according to the complaint, and began sharing it with fellow film buffs who frequented an Internet chat room devoted to bootleg movies.

Bootleg copies of major films, such as "The Matrix Reloaded," often begin circulating on the Internet before the movie hits theaters.

Gonzalez was identified as a result of an investigation by the FBI's Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Squad, according to the statement. He will by sentenced Sept. 26 and faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, an advocate of increased federal intervention in copyright issues, hailed the investigation.

"While 'The Hulk' is a comic book hero known to millions, copyright pirates practice their illegal trade in relative anonymity," he said in a statement. "Today, the FBI brought the face of copyright piracy public, and for that they are to be commended."

Man admits copying "The Hulk" before premier
Reuters, 06.25.03, 4:44 PM ET

NEW YORK, June 25 (Reuters) - A New Jersey man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to making an unauthorized digital copy of a the new hit movie "The Hulk" and showing the copyrighted movie on the Internet in advance of last week's release in theaters.

Kerry Gonzalez, 25, appeared in Manhattan federal court while wearing an olive green suit and dark green tie. He pleaded guilty to one count of copyright infringement and faces a possible maximum three year prison term.

Universal Studios, which is owned by Vivendi Universal SA (nyse: V - news - people), holds the copyright to the movie, an adaptation of the Marvel comic book featuring the green giant Hulk character. The movie opened at No. 1 at the box office, earning nearly $63 million in ticket sales over the weekend.

Gonzalez, who is free on a $25,000 personal bond, is to be sentenced on Sept. 26. He told reporters after the hearing that he had never even watched the movie.

According to the complaint, about 2-1/2 weeks ahead of the June 20 nationwide release of The Hulk, Universal sent copy of what is known as a work print to a Manhattan advertising agency. The work print, which was of somewhat lesser quality than the final film, was encoded with special security measures to stop unauthorized distribution including an embedded "tag" that allowed copies to be traced.

Although the ad agency had agreed that it would not permit anyone to make or distribute copies, one of its employees loaned the print to a friend who in turn loaned it to Gonzalez.

The defendant used his home computer to make a digital copy and ran a program aimed at editing out the security tag.

Gonzalez then uploaded the digitized copy of the work print on June 6 to an Internet Web site chat room hosted from the Netherlands. The site is frequented by numerous movie enthusiasts who post and trade copies of bootleg movies.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office would not comment on the case or how Gonzalez was caught.

But Universal Pictures President Rick Finkelstein said in a statement the studio intended to "aggressively pursue those responsible for the theft of our property."
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