The FBI has raided the Los Angeles apartment of a Screen Actors Guild member the bureau believes was first to upload the Oscar-winning movieThe King’s Speech as well as Black Swan, and other in-theater-only films to the Pirate Bay in January, according to interviews and sealed court records obtained by Wired.com.
The Tuesday raid of actor and clothing-shop owner Wes DeSoto’s apartment came months after the guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences both lauded The King’s Speech with top-acting and top-picture awards.
The authorities are also investigating whether there is a link between DeSoto and the notorious Pirate Bay pre-release movie-uploading group TiMPE, according to a sealed FBI affidavit obtained by Wired.com. In the warrant request to search DeSoto’s apartment, FBI special agent Thomas Brenneis wrote Magistrate Suzanne H. Segal of Los Angeles that the bureau was seeking “records, documents, programs, applications or materials relating to ‘TiMPE’ and ‘thepiratebay.org.’”
DeSoto, who recently played a small role in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, said in a telephone interview he has no affiliation with TiMPE, and declined further comment.
“I’m nobody in the online file sharing world. This investigation is excessive and a waste of tax dollars,” he said.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles declined comment. The FBI in Los Angeles was not immediately prepared to comment.
The bureau’s involvement in the case, according to the affidavit, commenced in February when Larry Hahn, the Motion Picture Association of America director of content protection, “advised” the FBI that five “feature motion pictures” were uploaded to the Pirate Bay days before.
“Each of these movies was high-quality, and believed to have been movie-screener versions provided to members of the Screen Actors Guild,” the FBI’s Brenneis wrote. “Each of the movies had been released for theatrical viewing in the previous three months, before having been uploaded to thepiratebay.org, but none of the movies had been sold or distributed publicly in the DVD or video-streaming formats.”
The MPAA declined comment.
Threat Level obtained the affidavit on condition that it not publish the 34-page document in its entirety.
DeSoto is suspected of using the Pirate Bay handle mf34inc to upload the films in late January. No charges have been filed.
The affidavit references the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, for releasing a work online that is “being prepared for commercial distribution.”
The authorities pinpointed DeSoto as the alleged culprit, because the screeners he viewed contained unique watermarks. What’s more, the guild had snail-mailed traceable iTunes codes to its members, who could use the code to access the screener movies.
Because pre-release uploading is perceived as an artform on the Pirate Bay, some commenters on Pirate Bay began questioning the authenticity of Black Swan, saying it was a “fake,” the affidavit said.
But mf34inc commented back that “SAG now sends out iTunes download codes for screens,” and “I’m a SAG member and thought I’d share these,” according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, Paramount Pictures had inserted “specific identifying marks” for the screener The Fighter and discovered it linked to mf34inc on Pirate Bay, according to the affidavit. Other movies linked to that handle on Jan. 27 included 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan.
Deluxe Webwatch, a Paramount Pictures contractor, continued monitoring the Pirate Bay for additional uploads from mf34inc, according to the affidavit. The next day, Rabbit Hole was being uploaded, and Deluxe Webwatch captured the IP address of the seeder, according to the affidavit.
With a subpoena, the authorities demanded Time Warner Cable–Road Runner tell them who was the account-holder of the detected IP address, and the authorities obtained a warrant to search the premises. The agents seized a desktop computer from DeSoto’s apartment.
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