Busted Camcording Piracy Group Sought Street Cred

A 28-year-old California man has pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal copyright infringement for being part of an in-theater camcording group known as IMAGiNE, whose goal was mostly internet cred, not money.

Sean Lovelady faces a maximum 5-year term when sentenced later this year. Under the terms of his Wednesday plea, he agreed to cooperate (.pdf) with the authorities for a potentially reduced term.

Lovelady, one of four men indicted (.pdf) last month in connection to the scheme, was accused of audio-recording films such as Friends With Benefits and Captain America: The First Avenger. Others in the group would record the film at a theater with a camcorder. Then the sound and video would be combined into a full-featured movie, the authorities said.

While the group allegedly took an undisclosed amount of “donations” via PayPal for their services, the main motive appears to be street cred, the authorities said.

“The conspirators informally identified themselves as the IMAGiNE Group and sought, among other things, to be the premier group to first release to the internet copies of new motion pictures only showing in movie theaters,” according to the indictment in the Easter District of Virginia.

Other films the group recorded and uploaded included The Men Who Stare at Goats, Avatar, Clash of the Titans, Iron Man 2, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and, among others, The Green Hornet.

Assistant Attorney General Breuer said in a statement that the group “sought to become the leading source of pirated movies on the internet.”

That’s a bit over-the-top, given that camcorder releases are of much lower quality than copies ripped from DVDs, don’t look very good even on laptop-sized screens and are a poor replacement for a theater experience.

The authorities said the group utilized servers in France, Canada and the United States to offer in-theater-only movies from websites like unleashthe.net, pure-imagination.us and pure-imagination.info.

The indictment said the group accepted donations “to fund expenses, including the cost of renting servers used by the conspirators, and to accept payments for the unauthorized distribution and sale of pirated copies of copyrighted works.”

The indictment alleges that the IMAGiNE Group’s websites included member profiles, a torrent tracker, discussion forums and a message board.