Briton extradited to US on film piracy charges, pleads not guilty

NEW YORK, September 1 (Reuters) – A Briton has been extradited to the United States on charges of involvement in a global pirating network that distributed movies and TV shows online ahead of their release dates forecast, causing significant losses to production studios.

George Bridi, 51, pleaded not guilty to three conspiracy charges in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Bridi, who lived on the Isle of Wight in England, made his case a day after being extradited from Cyprus, where he was arrested in August 2020, according to the office of American lawyer Audrey Strauss in Manhattan.

A lawyer for Bridi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bridi and two other men have been indicted for their work for the Sparks group, which allegedly leaked movies and TV shows, including almost all films from major production studios, for nearly a decade bypassing their protections by copyright.

Prosecutors said Sparks obtained pre-copies of copyright-protected DVDs and Blu-Ray discs from wholesale distributors in the New York City area, inventing reasons for needing them.

Sparks then used computers to compromise disc copyright protections, known as “cracking” or “ripping,” and recoded the discs so they could be easily shared online, prosecutors said.

According to Bridi’s indictment, the reproduced content was tagged with names such as “Sparks”, “Drones”, “Rovers”, “Geckos” and “Sprinter”.

Film production studios have lost tens of millions of dollars to the hack, prosecutors said.

Dozens of Sparks servers were taken offline around the world in August 2020, when Bridi and her co-defendants were indicted.

Bridi has been charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen goods, and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Another defendant, Jonatan Correa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to infringe copyright and was sentenced in May to 2-1 / 4 years of supervised release, court records show. The third accused, Umar Ahmad of Norway, is still at large.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited by Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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