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Minicam movie pirate gets record-breaking five years in prison

IMAGiNE crew shares over 12 years in sentences

A member of the IMAGiNE piracy crew, which specialized in recording and distributing movies filmed in cinemas using camcorders, has received a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to copyright infringement.

Jeramiah Perkins, 40, of Portsmouth, Virginia, is the second-to-last member of the team to be sentenced to prison, and he'll also have to pay $15,000 in restitution and undergo three years of probation on release after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

It's the longest-ever sentence yet awarded for such infractions. Three other IMAGiNE members have been sentenced and another is due in March; so far the crew is sharing over a dozen years in hard time among them.

"IMAGiNE was responsible for more than 40 per cent of all English-language theatrical movie theft," Kate Bedingfield, spokeswoman for the MPAA, told The Register. "This group was the most prolific English-language movie theft group in history, and shutting it down was a huge step forward in helping to reassure consumers that the movies and TV shows they watch online are legitimate and secure, not stolen."

Between 2009 and 2011, the IMAGiNE team posted numerous recordings online of films such as Avatar, Clash of the Titans, and Captain America: The First Avenger [So, no good films then? – Ed]. They recorded the films using video recorders concealed in socks, slurped the audio feeds using theater-supplied equipment to avoid audience noises, then edited the two together.

"I called every local cinema to see what they broadcasted in," Perkins told another member of the team by email in 2010. "I told them a bs sob story bro ... told the manager i had a hearing impaired daughter and she had a phobia about other peoples heads being on there in house equipment so i told them i was going to buy her one, so they would find out and tell me then."

The films were uploaded via servers the group rented in France, Canada, and the US, and the pirate team set up PayPal and email accounts to collect funds from viewers, which they used to pay down server costs and buy new equipment. They also ran an online message board service.

The team gained a reputation for posting films well in advance of full release, and of better quality – although anyone who's seen a cam recording knows that such prints usually have dire audio and video quality. But this also attracted the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force), which began a series of raids in 2010 that took down the group. ®

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