In 2009 an unfinished copy of the latest in the X-Men movie series hit the Internet. The controversy was unprecedented and as expected the leak has since been thoroughly milked by Hollywood, who even referencing it in a failed case against a BitTorrent tracker. As the claimed original uploader now officially pleads guilty, he faces seeing out 2011 in jail. But after months of FBI investigations, unsurprisingly, no one else faces any charges.
By now the beginning of the Wolverine leak story is a well-worn tale. In April 2009 an unfinished ‘workprint’ copy of the movie appeared online and spread like wild fire, a month before it was due its official release.
Not surprisingly, Fox – the studio behind the production – went ballistic. The villain behind this crime would be made to pay dearly, they vowed.
Eventually the accusatory fingers began pointing at Gilberto Sanchez, a glass installer and musician from The Bronx. The now 48-year-old said he bought the movie for $5 from a Korean in the street. For the hell of it and against the advice of his friends, he then uploaded it to MegaUpload. A couple of weeks later the FBI turned up and by December 2009 Sanchez was under arrest.
So here we are, exactly 2 years to the day that Sanchez made his somewhat fateful ‘mega upload’ to MegaUpload (the FBI say he also posted two links to the file on public sites), and as expected he has kept his word by pleading guilty.
According to the FBI, Sanchez has admitted to “one count of uploading a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution.” This felony charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of three years in federal prison. It could also be accompanied by “a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or gross loss attributable to the offense, whichever is greater.”
But while it took the FBI a matter of hours to arrest the people who uploaded a workprint of Star Wars Episode III after it was leaked in 2005, it took two weeks to track down Sanchez and a whole 8 months to arrest him. What the FBI were doing in that two-thirds of a year is anyone’s guess, but one might presume that given 20th Century Fox’s vow to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law “the source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings” that might provide a clue.
Yet Sanchez is the only person to be facing charges and he falls into neither category.
The post-production studio from where the workprint copy leaked would have been incredibly easy for the FBI to identify – even more so than Sanchez himself – yet they have never even been mentioned. Indeed, someone there must’ve been directly responsible for leaking the movie out (in Fox’s terminology “the source of the initial leak”) but there have been no arrests.
Unsurprisingly, though, the studios didn’t miss the opportunity to try and punish those allegedly making “subsequent postings” of Wolverine. The administrators of FileSoup were charged with conspiracy to infringe copyright on the movie but were recently acquitted.
It now seems almost inevitable that Sanchez will go to jail following his sentencing by United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow on September 19th this year. However, the movie industry source of the initial leak can sit comfortably, safe in the knowledge that his or her paymasters rarely seek to punish their own.
They have a certain image to maintain.