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Revenge of the MPAA

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The loan of an illicitly obtained pre-release copy of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith has left seven friends each facing up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 (£56,000). Albert Valente, 28, took a copy of the final Star Wars film from the Los Angeles post-production facility where he worked last May, a week before its theatrical release.

The DVD copy was passed along to Jessie Lumada, 28, Ramon Valdez, 30, Michael Fousse, 42, Dwight Wayne Sityar, 27, Stephani Gima, 25, and Joel De Sagun Dimaano, 33. The six, all from Los Angeles, and Valente this week pleaded guilty to piracy charges over sharing the movie between themselves and for allowing an eighth person to upload a copy of the film onto the net.

Marc Hoaglin, 28, from Huntington Beach, California, and a work colleague of Dimaano, admitted putting the film on the net last month. Newly enacted federal law establishes tough penalties for sharing pre-released movies. Hoaglin faces sentencing in March while Valente and the six other defendants will learn their fate at a sentencing hearing scheduled for April 12.

"We are glad to see the Star Wars thieves brought to justice," the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said in a statement. "Stealing copyrights is a serious problem, and the theft and illegal distribution of Revenge of the Sith was a glaring example of how the actions of dishonest people can cheat the movie-watching experience."

A highly principled stance and one we can only hope the MPAA maintains in the case of the illicit copying of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a documentary about how the MPAA rates films, which the MPAA itself copied without permission. ®

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