U.S. Department of Justice - CyberCrime.gov Archived

Copyright Cases - U.S. v. Salisbury (N.D. Cal.) (Operation Site Down; Operation Copycat)


September 26, 2005
U.S. Department of Justice
District of California
United States Attorney
11th Floor, Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue, Box 36055
San Francisco, California 94102
Contact: Luke Macaulay
Media Office: (415) 436-6757
Main Office: (415) 436-7200

First Guilty Plea to New Federal Law Prohibiting Camcording Films in Movie Theaters

Missouri Theater Employee First Conviction in "Operation Copycat"

SAN JOSE -- The United States Attorney for the Northern District of California announced that Curtis Salisbury, 19, of St. Charles, Missouri, pleaded guilty today to two charges under the recently enacted Family Entertainment Copyright Act. Mr. Salisbury admitted to using a camcorder in a movie theater to copy recent theatrical releases, and then uploading the copies to a computer network for distribution. The movies involved included "The Perfect Man" and "Bewitched."

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Salisbury on August 3, 2005. Defendant Salisbury is scheduled to be sentenced before United States District Judge Ronald M. Whyte in San Jose on February 27, 2006 at 9:00 a.m.

United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan stated, "Camcording movies in theaters and putting them on the Internet for distribution is a federal crime. This first conviction under the Family Entertainment Copyright Act demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney's Office and our CHIP Unit will aggressively employ the tools provided by Congress and the President to combat the theft of intellectual property. Because camcording in theaters accounts for a significant amount of the illegal copies of movies found on the Internet, we will continue to prosecute those who engage in this type of illegal activity."

According to the plea agreement, during June 2005, defendant Salisbury was employed at the Des Peres Cinema 14 Theater Complex in St. Louis, Missouri, in the box office and as a cashier in concessions. After the theater closed, defendant Salisbury allowed other individuals into the theater to assist in the unauthorized recording of movies from the projection booth. Defendant Salisbury admitted to connecting the camcorder equipment directly to the projector sound board while recording films in the theater. He also used a mini-disc recorder to capture the film sound that he would later synchronize with the video using his computer to enhance the sound quality.

Mr. Salisbury pleaded guilty to making an unauthorized recording of "Bewitched" in a movie theater on June 28, 2005. Mr. Salisbury also pleaded guilty to copyright infringement by distributing the movie "The Perfect Man" on June 21, 2005. The movies were transmitted to servers located in the Northern District of California where an undercover warez investigation was based.

The count relating to camcording in a movie theater involves one of the provisions of the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005," which President Bush signed into law on April 27, 2005. The camcording activity concerns a violation of the ART Act ("Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act of 2005") provision, which criminalized the use of recording equipment to make copies of movies in movie theaters. The statute also prohibits making a commercially distributed movie available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, when the individual knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution. The prosecution represents the first use of these provisions of the ART Act by federal prosecutors.

The prosecution against Mr. Salisbury is part of a continuing investigation known locally as Operation Copycat, which to date has resulted in formal charges against six individuals in the Northern District of California and the execution of more than 40 searches nationwide. Operation Copycat is the local and largest part of the coordinated international law enforcement action known as Operation Site Down, which is targeting online piracy.

The maximum statutory penalty for distributing copyrighted works on a computer network in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2319(d)(2) is five years in prison, and the maximum penalty for unauthorized camcording in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2319B(a)(1) is three years in prison. Each offense is also punishable by a fine of $250,000, a term of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The investigation was overseen by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit of the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Mark L. Krotoski is the Assistant U.S. Attorney from the CHIP Unit prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri also joined the plea agreement. John Bodenhausen is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who assisted with the case from the Eastern District of Missouri. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.


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