A New York City man who admitted to illegally uploading an unfinished copy of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" a month before the movie's release was sentenced Monday to one year in federal prison.
Gilberto Sanchez pleaded guilty in March to uploading a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, saying he bought a "workprint" copy of the 20th Century Fox film for $5 on a street corner near his Bronx home in March 2009. He then uploaded the movie to Megaupload.com, and publicized it with links on two other websites.
The studio moved quickly to have the file removed, but federal prosecutors argued that "the damage was done and the film had proliferated like wildfire throughout the Internet, resulting in up to millions of infringements." Indeed, Fox estimated the Gavin Hood-directed movie had been downloaded roughly 4.5 million times by its May 1, 2009, theatrical release. The $150 million "Wolverine" grossed $179 million in North America before going on to earn $373 million worldwide, leading to speculation as to whether the leak helped or hurt the box-office performance. Although the workprint contained a reference to Rising Sun Pictures, the Australian visual-effects studio that worked on the film, the source of the leak has never been determined.
Describing Sanchez's offense as "extremely serious," U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow also imposed on the 49-year-old man one year of supervised release and numerous computer restrictions.
"The federal prison sentence handed down in this case sends a strong message of deterrence to would-be Internet pirates," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement. "The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation."