The Feds Have Busted Major Movie Screener Pirates The Sparks Group

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The Feds Have Busted Major Movie Screener Pirates The Sparks Group

A group of three men have been charged in Manhattan Federal Court for the piracy of a sprawling collection of films and television series, according to indictments unsealed this week. The men, Jonatan Correa, Umar Ahmad and George Bridi, were reportedly members of a piracy group known as “The Sparks Group,” which was responsible for the piracy of “nearly every movie released by major production studios” in recent years, according to the indictment. Those postings and leaked films are estimated to be responsible for “tens of millions of dollars in losses” by studios and distributors.

Two members of the group, Ahmad and Bridi, reportedly lived in Oslo, Norway and the Isle of Wight, indicating the group’s international reach. A third, unnamed co-conspirator was reportedly based in “the suburbs of Westchester County, New York.”

“Over the course of the conspiracy, the Sparks Group has successfully reproduced and disseminated hundreds of movies and television shows prior to their retail release date, including nearly every movie released by major production studios,” reads the indictment.

The Sparks Group’s primary method for piracy was to target screeners directly, posing as film industry professionals in order to obtain film screeners intended for critics and industry insiders. Reaching out through a front organization, the men who get distributors to send them screeners directly, and then would apply their technical savvy to somehow get around whatever copyright protection or watermarking was present on the DVDs or Blu-ray discs they were sent. The newly liberated files could then be sold or posted on the internet for others to download.

“The Sparks Group continuously searched for and solicited distributors and retailers that could be used to obtain DVDs and Blu-Ray discs as early as possible,” says the indictment. This often led to their pirated versions of DVD and Blu-ray releases being available online before the official commercial releases of those products via physical media, causing obvious losses for retailers and studios.

Further court proceedings are expected to shed more light on how the piracy ring operated, and what kinds of methods it used to scam distributors and get around copyright protection.

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