NinjaVideo Founders Plead Guilty to Copyright Infringement, Await Sentencing

By Joseph Mandour on October 19, 2011

jail Los Angeles – Law enforcement agencies shut down NinjaVideo, a popular Internet file sharing site, in a recent crackdown on online infringement. The site enabled millions of users to illegally download high-quality copies of movies and television programs.

Authorities working for “Operation In Our Sites,” a law enforcement initiative set up last year by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and illegal file sharing over the internet,” scored their first convictions with David Smith and Hana Beshara. The NinjaVideo co-founders admitted to earning over $500,000 from donations and advertising in the two years since NinjaVideo became active, and plead guilty to criminal copyright infringement charges. Smith and Beshara also pled guilty to conspiring with other defendants to willfully infringe third party rights for profit. Beshara opined in a public manifesto that her actions fell within a “gray area” of the law, but will be sentenced on both counts at the end of this year and could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

ICE continues to task agents with seizing domain names where sites make copyright protected content or counterfeits available to users illegally. As of this month, ICE has seized over 100 domain names, with a recent round of seizures targeting sports streaming sites. However, whether or not criminal prosecution will become a trend remains to be seen.

In a statement before the U.S. House of Representatives, ICE director John Morton claimed that, “Operation In Our Sites was developed with the Department of Justice to respect free speech, to provide due process, and to work within the statutory framework provided to us by Congress. Domain names seized under Operation In Our Sites are seized only in furtherance on ongoing criminal investigations into violations of U.S. federal laws.”

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