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Los Angeles-In the first trial of its kind in the United States, a federal jury in Los Angeles recently convicted a 70-year-old retired painter of illegally bringing a camcorder into a movie theater to record The Legend of Zorro. The jury’s decision against Manuel Sandoval was the first brought under the U.S. Family and Entertainment Copyright Act (FECA), a year-old law that gives prosecutors the ability to pursue charges against individuals who illegally copy movies or music. USA v. Sandoval, No. 06cr00054 (C.D. Calif.). FECA, signed into law in April 2005, makes it a crime to upload a copyrighted work onto the Internet, and also makes it a felony, not just a misdemeanor, to copy a movie in a theater using a camcorder. Also under FECA, prosecutors do not have a minimum value of copyrighted material in order to pursue a case, said Elena Duarte, chief of the cyber and intellectual property crimes section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. In the past, prosecutors were limited to bringing only those cases that involved at least $1,000 worth of copyrighted material. “FECA enabled us to do away with the stringent requirement as to uploading and using a camcorder,” Duarte said. “It enables us to have deterrent impact because we can charge smaller-scale activity.” Since the act was passed, two other individuals have pleaded guilty to similar claims, and several others have been indicted. ‘Operation Copycat’ Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California were the first to use FECA as part of a widespread probe in that office called Operation Copycat. Curtis Salisbury of St. Charles, Mo., pleaded guilty to two charges under FECA alleging that he used a camcorder to tape the theatrical releases of The Perfect Man and Bewitched, and uploaded them onto the Internet. USA v. Salisbury, No. 05cr00505 (N.D. Calif.). Salisbury’s lawyer, Geoffrey Braun of the Law Offices of Geoffrey Braun in San Jose, Calif., declined to comment. In March, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville charged two individuals under FECA for illegally uploading copyrighted songs onto a Web site in August 2005. They accuse Robert Thomas and Jared Chase Bowser of posting songs by alternative country singer Ryan Adams & the Cardinals before the release of Adams’ album Jacksonville City Nights. USA v. Thomas, No. 06cr00033 (M.D. Tenn.). “It’s a useful, valuable and new legal tool we now have available to us that came by way of this act, and it fits an area of copyright violation that needed it,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard “Trey” Hester, who brought the Nashville case. “The Internet is being utilized to distribute pirated material, and this gives us an additional means of addressing that.” Thomas’ public defender, R. David Baker in Nashville, declined to comment. Bowser’s lawyer, Thomas Bishop, a partner in the Jacksonville, Fla., office of Holland & Knight, said, “[w]e’re denying that Mr. Bowser did anything wrong and that will be our defense.” Bishop said further, “He’s pleaded not guilty, and we’ve moved to dismiss the indictment.” At the Central District of California federal court in Los Angeles, where Sandoval was tried, prosecutors charged eight individuals for illegally taking a copy of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith from a post-production facility and making it available on the Internet. One of the individuals, Marc Hoaglin, pleaded guilty to one count under FECA. He was the only defendant to upload the movie from his computer. USA v. Hoaglin, No. 05cr01001 (C.D. Calif.). “He uploaded it onto the Internet, the gravamen of the crime,” said Michael Shannon, a Pasadena, Calif., lawyer who represents Hoaglin. “If he would have just kept it and shown it to his family and friends, he wouldn’t have been prosecuted.”

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