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A man convicted of recording films using a camcorder in cinemas has been sentenced in the US to seven years in jail. The man was the first to be charged in a nationwide campaign against video piracy.

"It is hoped the sentence will deter further unlawful conduct and protect the public," the judge in the case, Dean Pregerson, said.

Johnny Ray Gasca was found guilty in 2005 of copyright infringement. He was also convicted of using a fake social security number and of fleeing his lawyer's custody while awaiting trial. He represented himself in his trial, which lasted a week.

Gasca said he did not record the films for profit, but the prosecution case included diary excerpts in which Gasca wrote that he earned $4,000 a week through his actions. The resulting copies of films were sold in small shops or directly on the street, the prosecution said.

Gasca was arrested three times for taking a camcorder into cinemas. The third time was when he was caught on tape by a camera designed to record the audience's reaction at a screening of the film Anger Management. Gasca was ordered by the judge to attend anger management classes on release.

"This sentence marks the conclusion of a lengthy investigation and trial involving charges of copyright infringement, witness intimidation, and escape," Stephen Tidwell of the FBI told the Hollywood Reporter.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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