The movie industry is already in disarray because of the pandemic. But at least it can put a few points on the board thanks to a major new arrest.
Federal prosecutors have cracked down on an international movie-pirating operation that reportedly caused "tens of millions of dollars in losses" for film studios and production companies over the last nine years, court documents obtained by the Daily News show.
The copyright-infringement team called "The Sparks Group" was allegedly spearheaded by George Bridi, Umar Ahmad, and Jonatan Correa. Authorities claim that this group pirated "nearly every movie released by major production studios." They did so by tricking distributors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Canada into sending them advanced copies of films and TV shows. They then disabled the copyright protection on the discs and uploaded the content online prior to the official release dates.
"Over the course of the conspiracy, the Sparks Group has successfully reproduced and disseminated hundreds of movies and television shows prior to their retail release date, including nearly every movie released by major production studios," the indictment alleges. "The Sparks Group continuously searched for and solicited distributors and retailers that could be used to obtain DVDs and Blu-Ray discs as early as possible."
The Sparks Group used names like “SPARKS,” “DRONES,” “ROVERS,” “GECKOS,” and “SPRINTER” to brand their content for consumers, while other members of the team "further reproduced and disseminated" the content from servers controlled by the group.
"The Sparks Group also uploaded photographs of the discs in their original packaging to its servers to demonstrate that the reproductions originated from authentic DVDs and Blu-Ray discs," prosecutors allege.
Although this hurt the pockets of film studios, the prosecution does not disclose if the Sparks Group made any money from these pirated films. Attorneys for the men named and their unidentified co-conspirators have yet to respond to these accusations.