A Screen Actors Guild member has pled guilty to leaking several high-profile Hollywood films on BitTorrent, a file-sharing network notorious for enabling internet piracy of films, music, and television programs.
Wired reports that Wesley DeSoto, a bit actor who once appeared in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,' admitted to leaking his screener version of 'Black Swan' on the internet and is expected to return to court again in a month for sentencing. According to court documents (PDF) obtained by Wired, the maximum sentence for DeSoto's violation could be three years in prison, one year probation, and a fine of at least $250,000. But Wired says that the government is instead seeking three years of probation and some form of restitution.
In April of this year, the FBI raided DeSoto's Los Angeles apartment because they believed he was the first to illegally upload versions of several 2010 films while they were still in theaters, according to The Daily Mail. The FBI had narrowed their search to members of the actors guild after noticing the distinctive SAG watermark on the uploaded films.
Investigators later pinpointed DeSoto's home by tracing the IP address of a username who had uploaded several films to the file-sharing site. According to an FBI search warrant (PDF) obtained by Deadline.com, agents were on the hunt for evidence connecting DeSoto to the films 'Black Swan,' '127 Hours,' 'The Fighter,' 'The King's Speech,' and 'Rabbit Hole,' which had all been uploaded to pirating site The Pirate Bay.
Thousands of screeners for film and television are sent out to the members of various artist guilds each year (Directors Guild, Writers Guild, and Screen Actors, to name a few) for review and voting in the year's awards. Each copy is digitally watermarked to help studios narrow down suspects when investigating possible cases of intellectual theft or copyright violation.