Briton sentenced to 22 months in prison for global movie piracy according to US judge

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NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) – A Briton was sentenced to 22 months in prison on Monday after admitting involvement in a global piracy ring that caused major losses to film and television production studios by distributing online line of new content.

George Bridi, a 52-year-old former disc jockey, had already spent 17 and a half months in prison since his arrest in Cyprus for his work for the group Sparks, which prosecutors described as a international online hacking group.

Bridi pleaded guilty in November to a conspiracy charge for copyright infringement.

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“American copyright infringement is a big problem in our economy,” said U.S. District Judge Richard Berman. “It is doubly disturbing that it could be conducted… from outside the United States”

The Manhattan judge said Bridi played a “significant supervisory role” in the hacking scheme. In addition to imposing the 22-month prison sentence, Berman ordered the defendant to pay $120,000 in restitution.

Sparks has reportedly cost studios tens of millions of dollars over nearly a decade by leaking movies and TV shows before their scheduled release dates.

Prosecutors said the group concocted false reasons to obtain early copies of copyrighted DVDs and Blu-Ray discs from wholesale distributors.

Sparks then used computers to bypass the discs’ copyright protections, known as “cracking” or “ripping”, and recoded the discs with names such as “Drones”, “Rovers”, “Geckos” and “Sprinter” so they can be shared. online, prosecutors said.

Before being sentenced, Bridi said he had taken the “wrong way” and that his actions had hurt studios and employees.

“I am deeply remorseful,” Bridi said. “I’m really sorry for what I did.”

Prosecutors had requested a prison term of 27 to 33 months, reflecting federal sentencing recommendations.

Bridi’s lawyer called for his client’s release, saying he had spent enough time behind bars and wanted to be reunited with his wife and teenage twins.

The accused was born and raised in Ghana. In 2012 he moved to England, where he lived on the Isle of Wight. He was arrested in August 2020 and extradited a year later.

Two other defendants have also been charged in the case. Jonatan Correa, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy for copyright infringement and was sentenced last May to 2 and a quarter years of probation, while Umar Ahmad of Norway is free.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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