A Missouri man is the first to be indicted under a new federal law that prohibits people from secretly videotaping movies when they are shown in theaters, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.
Curtis Salisbury, 19, used a camcorder to make copies of recent releases "The Perfect Man" and "Bewitched" and then distributed them through illicit computer networks that specialize in piracy, the Justice Department said.
A law that took effect in April prohibits such behavior.
Salisbury also downloaded several movies and software programs from the computer network, the Justice Department said.
Salisbury, who faces up to 17 years in prison, could not be reached for comment.
Entertainment-industry insiders and tech-savvy hackers use "warez" networks, as they're commonly known, to distribute movies, music and software for free, often before they're released to the public.
The files then end up on peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa, where they can be downloaded by millions of people, or burned onto discs and sold on street corners.
Law enforcement officials say most participants in warez networks are generally not motivated by profit. In this instance, Salisbury sought payment for the movies he uploaded, the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department has targeted warez networks before, most recently in a June 30 raid that involved more than a dozen countries.
Salisbury, of St. Charles, Missouri, was arrested as part of that effort. He has been charged with conspiracy and copyright infringement, along with two violations of the camcorder law.
Camcorder piracy accounts for over 90 percent of movies that turn up on the Internet while they're still in theaters, said the head of a movie-industry trade group.
"The creative works of the entertainment industry belong to the millions of people who make them and are not for others to steal or unlawfully distribute," said Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America.