Richard Humphrey, 26, of North Ridgeville, Ohio was sentenced to 29 months in prison for selling pirated copies of movies in 2010. Once in prison, Humphrey was a bit surprised when he sat with other prisonsoners watching clearly pirated movies shown by the state. One can certainly understand his confusion, particularly when it came out that prison officials had knowingly used pirated movies like “Ride Along” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” before they were released on DVD.
Here is the Justice Department press release on Humphrey’s conviction.
Humphrey was sent to prison for a parole violation after it was shown that he had sexual contact with a minor (He insisted that the girl told him that she was 21 years old and that he had no reason to believe that she was a minor since she would drive to his home and bring beer). Once in prison, he watched the movies and asked why the Lorain Correctional Institution could show such movies when he was subject to a criminal charge for copyright infringement in selling such downloaded movies. Of course, the prison is not selling the movies though it is saving money that would have had to be spent on buying such movies.
A spokesperson said that officials were indeed aware that the movies were pirated and that the matter is being investigated.
Humphrey said he saw “Ride Along” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” three or four times while he was in an intake pod at the start of his sentence.
The federal law is quite harsh on such criminal sanctions, which seem to be expanding every year as lobbyists push through more and more draconian laws. The federal code states:
U.S. Code › Title 17 › Chapter 5 › § 506
17 U.S. Code § 506 – Criminal offenses
(a) Criminal Infringement.—
(1) In general.— Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed—
(A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;
(B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180–day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or
(C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.
Note the “or” after subsection B. Thus, it does not have to be done for “commercial advantage” if there is a total retail value of more than $1000. Multiple showings of different movies could well meet that definition. If the prosecutors are unsure, there is a guy at the prison who has a bit of experience in the area.