Dec 20th 2011 By: Andy Khouri
A man who's confessed to uploading an early cut of X-Men Origins: Wolverine
to the Internet a month before the film was to debut in cinemas has been sentenced to a year in federal prison
reports that 49-year-old Gilberto Sanchez pleaded guilty
in March to one count of "uploading a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution," a charge which United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow described as "extremely serious."
The early leaking of the DVD-quality workprint of Wolverine
created quite a commotion back in 2009. The pirated cut was downloaded at least four million times, which according to Reuters
could have translated to $28.7 million in lost ticket sales if the downloaders opted out of seeing Wolverine
in the theater. Compounding fears, the leaked copy was missing final special effects shots and other material, and the advance spoiler-filled reviews were incredibly damning of the X-Men sequel, which cost $150 million to produce.
Sanchez bought a DVD of the Wolverine
workprint from a street corner bootlegger. It's unknown who actually leaked the film, but it was reported at the time
that while critics' early copies of films are carefully tracked, security during the post-production process is relatively lax.
In any event, Sanchez was described by prosecutors in language that suggested something of a piracy supervillain who shared other people's intellectual property without restraint. He "uploaded the workprint more than one month before theatrical release, he has a prior conviction for a similar offense, he had been regularly uploading pirated movies for four or five years, and did not appear remorseful after charges were brought," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. Additionally, Sanchez promoted his actions on several heavily trafficked websites, posting links to the Wolverine print using screennames that were variations on the word "skillz."
"The federal prison sentence handed down in this case sends a strong message of deterrence to would-be Internet pirates," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation."
In addition to the one year federal prison sentence, the judge sentenced Sanchez to a year of supervised release and has also imposed "numerous computer restrictions."
Despite heavy proliferation of the pirated film and the memorably bad word-of-mouth that resulted, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
earned $85 million in its first weekend. The film currently holds the record for 16th highest-grossing opening day, and Box Office Mojo
lists it as having made over $370 million worldwide, numbers that fuel debate over whether Internet leaks can actually enhance sales.