Birmingham & Black Country

Online film piracy group jailed

Daniel Craig in Skyfall Image copyright AP
Image caption Daniel Craig starred as James Bond in Skyfall which was released in 2012

Four members of a film piracy group who illegally released online more than 2,500 films have been jailed.

The men were part of online communities trying to be the first to find and release the latest films, or produce the best quality illegal copies.

Millions of people downloaded the films causing losses put at more than £5m by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

The men all admitted conspiracy to defraud in January.

A fifth man was given a two-year suspended jail sentence.

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Sahil Rafiq and Ben Cooper, from Wolverhampton; Reece Baker and Scott Hemming, from Birmingham, and Graeme Reid, from Chesterfield, were sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday.

They illegally released films - including Argo, the Avengers and Skyfall - using several online aliases over a number of years, FACT said.

FACT said Baker was caught red-handed encoding the film Gangster Squad, which had only been released three weeks earlier, when officers raided his home.

Image copyright Avengers: Age of Ultron
Image caption The original Avengers film took $207.4m (£137.2m) when it debuted in 2012

Baker also illegally leaked Fast and Furious 6, Man of Steel and Monster University while on bail, FACT stated.

Kieron Sharp, director general of FACT, said the sentencing marked the first time a release group had been criminally prosecuted.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property added: "The illegal copying and distribution of films has real consequences for the film industry and consumers."

The men's sentences:

Rafiq, 25, of Warnford Walk, received four years and five months

Baker, 23, of Dalmer Close, Castel Bromwich, received four years and one month

Reid, 41, of Kings Clear Walk, received three years and five months

Cooper, 34, Dilloways Lane, received three years and five months

Hemming, 27, of Perry Common, received a two-year suspended sentence.

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