After a week-long jury trial, a video retailer in the US state of Maine was convicted in late December for selling illegally duplicated DVDs online, and has been sentenced to five years in US federal prison. One of his retail employees had previously been sentenced to five years’ probation after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting mail fraud for fulfilling orders by mail.
The seller, Douglas Gordon, operated two retail video stores (now closed), and had been selling pirated DVDs online between 2012 and 2018. During his 2019 trial in US District Court, he claimed he didn’t know that what he was doing was illegal. He testified that he had researched the copyrights of the pirated movies and copied them only if he found that their copyrights had expired.
The Motion Picture Association confirmed that the copies on offer were counterfeit, and financial loss to the copyright owners – which included MGM, CBS, Disney and others – was estimated at more than $600,000, based on what they would have sold for at retail, had they been legitimate copies. The seller also had to pay back the costs that buyers paid to purchase the illegal copies.
The violator is free on $2,500 bail but is to report to jail in June 2021, allowing him adequate time to be vaccinated against COVID. In addition to the five years prison time, he will undergo two years of supervised release, and is prohibited from establishing an online or mail order business.
The US Department of Homeland Security had previously warned him twice to cease his illegal activities, in 2015 and 2017; which he ignored. The judge said that he is “smart enough and old enough to have known better.”
Gordon could have faced up to 20 years in prison on mail fraud charges, and three on copyright infringment, as well as up to $250,000 for each count of infringement.
Learn more about the sentence in the Bangor Daily News (Maine, US)
Read about the initial charges in the Bangor Daily News
Why it matters
This case runs counter to the prevailing assumption that all movie piracy has migrated online for streaming, illegal sharing or hosted downloads. Similarly, while streaming has begun to displace cyberlockers and download (Torrent) sites in popularity, those continue to exist as well.