A federal judge in Seattle has sentenced a man who pirated movies and television shows to 40 months in prison and ordered him to forfeit $409,776.
On October 12, Judge Richard Jones of the Western District of Washington sentenced San Jin Kim, 37, for two counts of criminal copyright infringement.
Kim was indicted in December 2011. He pleaded guilty in July 2012 to operating websites to distribute pirated copies of movies, television shows, software and workout videos.
Prosecutions for intellectual property crimes aren’t very common, but they’re increasing, said Jenevieve Maerker, an intellectual property associate at Boston’s Foley Hoag, who wasn’t involved in the case. “Digital reproduction has made infringement a bigger problem for the content industries and they’re trying to do something about it, and the government is too,” Maerker said.
Kim stole some of the television programs from Korean broadcasters, and marketed them to Koreans in the United States. The Homeland Security Investigations department of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigated the case.
“This defendant operated websites that engaged in copyright infringement on a massive scale,” said Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington in a press release.
According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, “Kim created a one stop shop for pirated content.…His ability to market to an immigrant community and offer stolen content from a foreign country magnified his ability to go unnoticed and generate substantial personal profits.” Prosecutors calculated a sentencing range of 46 months to 57 months and sought a 57-month sentence.
Kim’s lawyer, Christopher Black, of Seattle, declined to comment.
Kim’s sentence comes amid the Justice Department’s increased focus on enforcement of intellectual property laws. Earlier this month, DOJ announced more than $2.4 million in grants to 13 jurisdictions to combat intellectual property violations and piracy.
The jurisdictions that received the grants include Austin, Texas.; Baltimore County, Md.; Central Point, Ore.; Cook County, Ill; Orlando, Fla; Riverside County, Calif.; the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office; the New York County District Attorney’s Office; Sacramento County, Calif.; San Antonio, Texas; the California Department of Justice; the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department; and the Virginia State Police.
All told, the department has granted $10.1 million to 34 law enforcement agencies in the past three years for intellectual property enforcement.
In an October 4 announcement about the grants, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said intellectual property theft is “not a victimless crime.…That’s why the Justice Department is fighting back with these new investments to prevent and combat IP theft by enabling some of our key state and local partners to build on their records of success.”
At a May 17 hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives titled “Customs Trade Facilitation and Enforcement,” ICE deputy director Kumar Kibble said that arrests for intellectual property crimes rose to 574 in fiscal year 2011, which ended on September 30, 2011, from 266 in fiscal year 2009.
The crime of copyright infringement is increasingly being prosecuted, said Mark Schonfeld, a partner at Boston-based Burns & Levinson whose practice includes helping brand owners combat counterfeiting. Schonfeld wasn’t involved in the case.
The federal government, especially the FBI, is boosting its efforts to combat blatant infringement of intellectual property, especially copyrighted movies and music, he said.
With regard to Kim’s sentence, Schonfeld said, “The amount of content being distributed, the blatant disregard of warnings by the copyright owners, and the unlawful profits earned, would have led the judge to impose a higher-than-usual sentence of 40 months.”
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at email@example.com.