Gilberto Sanchez has been sentenced to one year in federal prison after admitting to having uploaded an unfinished, workprint copy of the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine a month before its May 2009 release. The sentence was handed down yesterday with sentencing judge Margaret M. Morrow describing the offense as “extremely serious.” Additionally, Judge Morrow imposed one year of supervised release and numerous computer restrictions.
Sanchez uploaded the film in late March 2009 and it quickly spread across the internet. In a sentencing memorandum prosecutors made the argument that this lead to “millions of infringements” and that Sanchez “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.”
Interestingly, X-Men Origins: Wolverine still managed to make over $85 million its opening weekend at the box office and would go on to ultimately earn $373 million worldwide. (Source – Box Office Mojo) Even after the poor reviews that the film got (37% on Rotten Tomatoes), that’s still an impressive take. Some have used that figure as proof that the leak of the film did not harm its box office but may have actually helped it.
In the same press release that quoted Judge Morro, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. is sited as stating“The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation.”
Except that they haven’t, have they?
Although Sanchez stated that he bought the film from a Korean sidewalk vendor in Brooklyn, I have never seen if Twentieth Century Fox, the Justice Department or eventhe FBI ever investigated this claim. At the time of the leak, it was speculated that only a high-ranking studio executive could have had the film in the first place, so the leak would have originated there.
This absence of follow up is what I have found most troubling about the case. I’m not one for tinfoil chapeaus but the lack of any public acknowledgement of an investigation that went further than Sanchez can only be read in three ways – 1) Incompetence, 2)Lack of interest in finding the real culprit once a scapegoat in the form of Sanchez had been discovered, or 3) A cover-up to protect whomever leaked the film, accidentally or on purpose, in the first place.
None of these conclusions ease the mind and to me indicate that Fox was more interested in sending a message to people that they will prosecute anyone who uploads a film to the internet. But if they, or any other studio, is really committed to stopping this sort of thing, they will need to stop treating the minor symptoms and go after the main disease. Or are they afraid what that may reveal about themselves?