Man Admits Copying 'The Hulk' Before Premiere
Wed Jun 25, 5:26 PM ET Add Technology - Internet Report to My Yahoo!
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to making an unauthorized digital copy of a the new hit movie "The Hulk" and showing the copyrighted movie on the Internet in advance of last week's release in theaters.
Kerry Gonzalez, 25, appeared in Manhattan federal court while wearing an olive green suit and dark green tie. He pleaded guilty to one count of copyright infringement and faces a possible maximum three year prison term.
Universal Studios, which is owned by Vivendi Universal SA (NYSE:V - news), holds the copyright to the movie, an adaptation of the Marvel comic book featuring the green giant Hulk character. The movie opened at No. 1 at the box office, earning nearly $63 million in ticket sales over the weekend.
Gonzalez, who is free on a $25,000 personal bond, is to be sentenced on Sept. 26. He told reporters after the hearing that he had never even watched the movie.
According to the complaint, about 2-1/2 weeks ahead of the June 20 nationwide release of The Hulk, Universal sent copy of what is known as a work print to a Manhattan advertising agency. The work print, which was of somewhat lesser quality than the final film, was encoded with special security measures to stop unauthorized distribution including an embedded "tag" that allowed copies to be traced.
Although the ad agency had agreed that it would not permit anyone to make or distribute copies, one of its employees loaned the print to a friend who in turn loaned it to Gonzalez.
The defendant used his home computer to make a digital copy and ran a program aimed at editing out the security tag.
Gonzalez then uploaded the digitized copy of the work print on June 6 to an Internet Web site chat room hosted from the Netherlands. The site is frequented by numerous movie enthusiasts who post and trade copies of bootleg movies.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office would not comment on the case or how Gonzalez was caught.
But Universal Pictures President Rick Finkelstein said in a statement the studio intended to "aggressively pursue those responsible for the theft of our property."
"Obviously, if this behavior went unchecked, we would not be able to produce and deliver films of the caliber of 'The Hulk' to the movie going public at large," he said.