Co-Founder of NinjaVideo.net Website Sentenced in Virginia to 14 Months in Prison for Criminal Copyright Conspiracy
WASHINGTON – Matthew David Howard Smith, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., was sentenced today in Alexandria, Va., to 14 months in prison for his role in founding NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download high-quality copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs, announced the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga also ordered Smith to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term, to pay $172,387 and to forfeit to the United States five financial accounts and various computer equipment involved in the crimes. Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
Smith was one of the founders of the NinjaVideo.net website, which operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. NinjaVideo.net provided millions of website visitors with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. Many of the movies offered on the website were still playing in theaters, while others had not yet been released. According to court documents, Smith designed many operational elements of the website, including an “applet” that was required to view infringing content on the NinjaVideo.net website. Smith admitted that he made agreements with online advertising entities to generate income for the website, and he and his co-conspirators collected more than $500,000 during the website’s two-and-a-half years of operation. Smith kept $172,387 of the illegal proceeds for himself.
On Sept. 9, 2011, Smith was indicted along with four of the other top administrators of NinjaVideo.net. Co-defendant Hana Amal Beshara was sentenced on Jan. 6, 2012, to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay nearly $210,000 for her role as another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net. Two additional co-defendants are awaiting sentencing. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for the fourth indicted co-defendant, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece. Another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net who was charged separately has also pleaded guilty.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section.
The investigation was conducted by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center). The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.
This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce.