On February 1, 2013, UK's Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) revealed they joined the Economic Crime Unit's police officers to carry out raids on many parts of central England. After the anti-piracy group’s investigation, the police raided the most prolific online movie pirates in the UK namely Graeme Reid, Scott Hemming, Reece Baker, Sahil Rafiq, and Ben Cooper. They were arrested and all had pleaded guilty to charges of Conspiracy to Defraud by January 2015.
Scott Hemming - 2 years suspended sentence
25 year old male, from Birmingham, accused of releasing 800 movie titles onto the internet causing some 2.6 million illegal downloads.
Reece Baker - 4 Years & 2 Months
22 year old male, youngest amongst the 5 men, from Birmingham, accused of eliciting 226,000 illegal downloads whilst on bail. Whilst the youngest of the group, these aggravating circumstances lead to one of the longest prison sentences.
SAHIL RAFIQ -
4 YEARS & 6 MONTHS
24 year old male, from Wolverhampton. He was accused of distributing via torrenting more than 880 movies, causing 1.5 million illegal downloads.
Ben Cooper - 3 Years & 6 Months
33 year old male, from Willenhall, accused of causing over 150,000 illegal downloads. Pleaded guilty.
GRAEME REID - 3 YEARS & 6 MONTHS
40 year old male, oldest amongst the 5 men, from Chesterfield. Accused of eliciting 1.1 million illegal downloads.
For 3 years, FACT was running an investigation of the activities of these men in an attempt to identify and track those who are behind various interrelated movie release groups like DTRG, UNiQUE, RemixHD, HOPE/RESISTANCE and 26K. According to FACT, altogether the groups released more than 9,000 movies online which resulted to around 5 million unauthorised views between March 1, 2010 and January 1, 2014.
The anti-piracy group claimed that an amount of £52 million in Hollywood revenues was “put at risk”. Following the “Newton hearing” last month, each of the five men admitted causing losses of around £1 million to the industry, more than £5 million in total. Sentencing for the five pirates was carried out by Wolverhampton Crown Court Judge Nicolas Webb.
This was FACT’s most aggressive private prosecution to date and it certainly delivered remarkable results. FACT Director General, Kieron Sharp said "Today’s sentencing is a great success for FACT as it marks the first time a release group has been criminally prosecuted. Rafiq, Baker, Reid, Cooper and Hemming were all aware that they were engaging in criminal activity. Their actions have now cost them their liberty".
These cases in particular show that an effort in earnest is at last being enforced in the United Kingdom achieve convictions for illegal downloading and distribution of films on the internet. TorrentFreak was informed by a source very close to the case that the sentences would have been greater if the pirates had not pleaded guilty early. And as Judge Sharp commented, "The result of this case sends out a serious message to anyone engaging in online piracy to think twice or face getting caught, prosecuted and sent to prison."