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Friday, August 17, 2012

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Maryland Man Sentenced to Six Months in Prison
For Criminal Copyright Infringement
- He Operated a DVD-Burning Factory From His Residence
And Distributed Pirated DVDs to Vendors at the D.C. Farmer’s Market -

     WASHINGTON - John M. Harris, 35, of Bryans Road, Md., was sentenced today to six months of incarceration, to be followed by six months of home detention, on a federal charge of criminal copyright infringement for reproducing motion pictures without the permission of the copyright owners and then distributing them to vendors in the District of Columbia.

     The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Field Office in Washington, D.C.

     Harris pled guilty in May 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan. Upon completion of his prison term, he will be placed on three years of supervised release. The court also ordered restitution to the copyright holders, the destruction of all infringing DVDs, and asset forfeiture of the equipment Harris utilized to produce the infringing motion pictures, which included computers and 11 optical disk duplication towers, each capable of producing 10 DVDs simultaneously.

     According to evidence presented to the Court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, Harris made copies of the motion pictures from June until October of 2011, using DVD burning towers, while operating a factory from his residence. In his plea, he admitted making 10 or more copies of three movies: Kung Fu Panda 2, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Bridesmaids, as well as hundreds of copies of other movie titles.

     Harris also admitted selling the DVDs he created to vendors at the Florida Avenue/D.C. Farmer’s Market, in the 500 block of Neal Place NW. In an interview with law enforcement, Harris acknowledged burning between 600 and1,000 movies a weekend and delivering them to the Farmer’s Market. According to Harris, he charged 60 cents per DVD for the pirated movies.

     Dream Works Animation owns the copyright to Kung Fu Panda 2, Walt Disney Studios owns the copyright of Pirates of the Caribbean, and Universal Pictures Corporation owns the copyright for Bridesmaids.

     On Oct. 8, 2011, ICE-HSI Special Agents executed a search of Harris’s residence and seized more than 1,100 infringing copies of motion pictures as well as computers and other equipment. The copies of the pirated films and blank DVDs that, but for law enforcement intervention Harris would have been used to create more pirated movies, are valued at more than $47,000.

     “John Harris turned his home into a virtual factory, where he churned out pirated movies to make a profit for himself,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “He took money that should have gone to the many people actually responsible for the entertainment he sold. This prosecution demonstrates our resolve to protecting copyrights on movies and other products from those who want to cash in illegally.”

     “Harris and criminals like him threaten the livelihoods of the hardworking people who depend on compensation from copyrighted materials to support their families,” said Special Agent in Charge Torres. “Those involved in intellectual property theft don't invest in product development; nor do they put a premium on product quality or safety. What they do is profit at someone else's expense. HSI and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center will continue to target intellectual property pirates who traffic in stolen movies for their own profit.”

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen and Special Agent in Charge Torres thanked the Special Agents who worked on the case, as well as those who handled the matter for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Forensic Accountant Maria Boodoo, Legal Assistants Lenisse Edloe and Tasheeka Hawkins, and Yvonne Bryant, Basizette Stribling and Dawn Tolson-Hightower of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. They also expressed appreciation to the Motion Picture Association of America, particularly the late William “Bill” Shannon, Deputy Director, U.S. Anti-Piracy Program, for their support and cooperation. Finally they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, who prosecuted the case.





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