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UK Movie Pirates jailed for 15 years for film sharing

Five men sentenced to a combined total of 15 years behind bars
After they've lost their case against Federation Against Copyright Theft

Fake films gang jailed for a combined 15 years over web film racket: 9,000 copied films such as Argo, Avengers, Skyfall, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel and Monster University, watched by millions.

The complex tactics employed by a gang of internet fraudsters who made copies of blockbuster films to swindle Hollywood out of millions of pounds have been heard in court.

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Kieron Sharp, director general of FACT, said the sentencing marked the first time a release group had been criminally prosecuted. Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property added:
"The illegal copying and distribution of films has real consequences for the film industry and consumers."

The men's sentences:

Rafiq, 25, of Warnford Walk, received four years and five months

Baker, 23, of Dalmer Close, Castel Bromwich, received four years and one month

Reid, 41, of Kings Clear Walk, received three years and five months

Cooper, 34, Dilloways Lane, received three years and five months

Hemming, 27, of Perry Common, received a two-year suspended sentence.

CAGED: Ben Cooper, top left, Reece Baker, 34 bottom left and Avengers Assemble film poster
CAGED: Ben Cooper, top left, Reece Baker, 34 bottom left and Avengers Assemble film poster.
It has been called an aggressive private prosecution and it was found the men's actions placed more than £52,000,000 in studio revenues "at risk". Sahil Rafiq, aged 25, of Warnford Walk, Wolverhampton, and Ben Cooper, 33, of Dilloways Lane, Willenhall, appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court for sentencing alongside their three co-conspirators.
They were part of a racket that created copies of blockbuster films and distributed them on the web for free.

All five have admitted conspiracy to defraud, in that on diverse dates between March 1, 2010 and January 1, 2014, they conspired together, and with others unknown, to defraud by making, copying, distributing or making available on line infringing copies of films.

Together, they were part of a plot to have resulted in copies of up to 9,000 films being watched by as many as five million people in less than four years.

OO7: The men pirated Brit blockbuster Skyfall
OO7: The men pirated Brit blockbuster Skyfall

Prosecutor David Groome, representing the Federation Against Copyright Theft, told the court of the great lengths the group went to in order to conceal their identity, and the variety of ways they went about obtaining and distributed copied films.

He said: "These men either founded or were part of what are known as 'release groups'.

"They obtain copies of films, and then work on them before releasing Torrent versions.

"Security is quite high in British cinemas but, in some countries abroad, it is not so.

"Quite often release groups will receive what's known as a CAM - a video recording of a film from the back of a cinema. "They will then get rid of the foreign audio, and edit in British audio which
they have obtained using a concealed dictaphone at a British cinema."

He added: "Film companies have a 'watermark' style security mechanism in place for cinema films to stop piracy.

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"The films being shown have a number of dots on the screen, not visible to the audience, which, if the show has been copied, tells the film company what screen in what cinema and in what town from which the film has been copied. "They can then track down CCTV to find out who is responsible.

"But some members of this group have 'de-dotted' films, in order to protect the identity of the people who provide them with the copies. "Quality can also be edited to get a high quality copy.

"Another method they have used is to copy DVD's. Discs normally have software installed to prevent people copying them, but there is another type of software to disable this, which was used.

"They have also somehow obtained a number of 'Screening' discs, which are used for premiere's and distributed to journalists and publicity companies on the strictest instructions that they do not show them to the general public."

Mr Groome told how Rafiq's release group, named '26K', was found to have uploaded 885 films on four Torrent sites which were checked.

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He said: "This group created Torrents, which involved films being fragmented into thousands of parts, uploaded to the internet and then downloaded by other users for free.

"It is impossible to tell how many times the films they have uploaded have been distributed online.

"We looked at four websites, where 885 films uploaded from 26K were found.

There are hundreds of Torrent websites. "They didn't do it for money, more to earn street cred. They were after kudos for being the first or the best at providing Torrent films." Rafiq ran the 26K group after previously working for DTRG, and specialised in releasing CAMS of films before the official release dates.

He also uploaded DVD rips.

Mr Groome added: "It is the prosecution's case that this crime hasn't just cost the film companies money, it has affected all people working directly or indirectly, from cinemas screening the films right down to people working in shops that sell DVD's."

On February 1 2013, the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft revealed they had joined police officers from the Economic Crime Unit to carry out raids at several addresses in central England.

As Hollywood’s enforcement arm in the UK, FACT were searching for five individuals believed to be behind several prolific and interrelated movie release groups. After a three year investigation, they finally
had their men.

Graeme Reid, 40, from Chesterfield, Scott Hemming, 25, and Reece Baker, 22, both from Birmingham, Sahil Rafiq, 24, of Wolverhampton and Ben Cooper, 33, of Willenhall, were all arrested and questioned at

By January 2015 all had broadly pleaded guilty to charges of Conspiracy to Defraud.

However, the extent of the infringement claimed by FACT in their private criminal prosecution was far in excess of that accepted by the accused.

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The numbers behind the prosecution

In order to come to a figure on losses, FACT appear to be relying on data presented publicly by ExtraTorrent, one of the world’s leading torrent sites. According to FACT the defendants were jointly responsible for around 4.2 million illegal downloads on ExtraTorrent alone.

The anti-piracy group will then take the average price of attending a cinema in the UK or buying a DVD or Blu-ray disc. Arriving at a figure convenient for all options, FACT will presume that the defendants’
actions “put at risk” at least £52,000,000 in studio revenues on ExtraTorrent alone.

Graeme Reid - 41, of Kings Clear Walk, received three years and five months

FACT alleged that Reid was the founder and leader of ‘RemixHD’, a release group that specialized in DVD and Blu-ray rips. The anti-piracy group will also state that Reid had connections with another famous
group known as ‘UNiQUE’. FACT accused Reid of causing more than 1.1 million illegal downloads,although the anti-piracy group insists this is just the tip  of the iceberg.

Value of property “put at risk” – £11m - Actual loss claimed – £1.1m.

Reece Baker (above)-  23, of Dalmer Close, Castel Bromwich, received four years and one month

FACT alleged that Baker used several online identities and was initially a member of a release group known as DTRG. Baker left DTRG to found a new group called HOPE which was later named to RESISTANCE. FACT claim that Baker also operated DEYA and was involved in sourcing, encoding and uploading movies.

It is understood that Baker was accused of causing more than 226,000 illegal downloads on ExtraTorrent but was also involved in distributing other content alleged to be worth £15m.

Value of property “put at risk” – £17m - Actual loss claimed – £1.7m

Sahil Rafiq (pictured above) 25, of Warnford Walk, received four years and five months

According to FACT, Rafiq was also a member of DTRG who went on to become the brains behind release group 26K. He was accused of collaborating with the other defendants in sourcing, encoding and uploading movies to torrent sites.

Information suggests that Rafiq is being accused of infringement to the tune of 1.5 million illegal downloads. Value of property “put at risk” – £15m - Actual loss claimed – £1.5m 
Ben Cooper

Ben Cooper (above), 34, Dilloways Lane, received three years and five months

It is believed that FACT alleged that Cooper founded two release groups known as ANALOG and TCM. It’s also claimed that he participated in HOPE alongside Reece Baker. FACT will allege that Cooper is to blame for more than 150,500 illegal downloads. Value of property “put at risk” – £1.5m - Actual loss claimed – £150,000.

Scott Hemming (pictured above) 27, of Perry Common, received a two-year suspended sentence.

Was accused of torrenting around 800 movies which together were downloaded a minimum of 2.6 million times. Value of property “put at risk” – £26m - Actual loss claimed – £2.6m.

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Related Tags: #cybersecurity , #piracy, #fact ,#mediabodyguard, #filmsecurity, #hollywood
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