Curtis Salisbury pleaded guilty to two charges.

Curtis Salisbury, 19, became the first person to be convicted under the recently enacted Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA). He pleaded guilty Monday (Sept. 26) in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., to two charges, admitting that he used a camcorder to copy "Bewitched" and "The Perfect Man" in movie theaters and then uploaded the copies to the Internet.

The St. Charles, Mo., resident was nabbed during the FBI's "Operation Copycat" investigation overseen by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. A federal grand jury indicted him on Aug. 3.

"This first conviction under the FECA demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney's Office and our CHIP unit will aggressively employ the tools provided by Congress and the president to combat the theft of intellectual property," said U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. "Because camcording in theaters accounts for a significant amount of the illegal copies of movies found on the Internet, we will continue to prosecute those who engage in this type of illegal activity."

According to the plea agreement, Salisbury was employed at a theater complex in St. Louis, working as a cashier in the box office and in concessions. Last June after the theater closed, he allowed other people into the theater to assist in the unauthorized recording of movies from the projection booth.

Salisbury admitted to connecting the camcorder equipment directly to the projector soundboard while recording films in the theater. He also used a mini-disc recorder to capture the film sound that he would later synchronize with the video using his computer to enhance the sound quality. The movies were transmitted to servers located in northern California where the undercover investigation was based.

FECA criminalizes the use of recording equipment to make copies of movies in theaters. It also prohibits anyone from making an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work available on a computer network that is accessible to the public when the person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.

"We want to thank the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI for their efforts to crack down on movie pirates," said John Malcolm, the Motion Picture Assn. of America's senior VP/director of worldwide anti-piracy. "Their attention to this growing phenomenon is crucial in our fight to protect copyrighted materials."

Operation Copycat is the local and largest part of the coordinated international law enforcement action known as Operation Site Down, which is targeting online piracy. To date it has resulted in formal charges against six individuals.

Salisbury is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 27, 2006. The maximum penalty is five years in prison for distributing copyrighted works on a computer network and three years for unauthorized camcording. Each offense is also punishable by a fine of $250,000.