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Leader Of U.S. Movie-Pirating Group Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison

A man who admitted to being the leader of the IMAGiNE Group, which released unauthorized versions of theatrical films online, has been sentenced to serve 60 months in prison — reportedly a record for an American web piracy sentence.

In addition to the prison term, Jeramiah B. Perkins, 40, of Portsmouth, Va., must also pay $15,000 in restitution. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement in November.

"Perkins was indicted along with three other defendants on April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters," the Department of Justice said.

The group produced pirated versions of the films by having its members separately record audio and video in theaters, according to court documents, and then synchronizing them to produce a complete version of the movie. Copies were then made available on websites using the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol.

Wired magazine reports that in addition to Captain America: The First Avenger, the group uploaded copies of films that "included The Men Who Stare at Goats, Avatar, Clash of the Titans, Iron Man 2, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and, among others, The Green Hornet."

IMAGiNE apparently accepted donations to support its efforts, in addition to selling "advance copies" of some releases, according to the TorrentFreak website.

Perkins, who admitted to setting up PayPal accounts, servers, and Internet domains for the group, received the stiffest penalty of the co-defendants so far, with one sentence remaining to be handed down.

During Perkins' trial, a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America said that IMAGiNE "constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011," according to the Justice Department.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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