UK national accused of movie piracy extradited to US

A UK citizen has been extradited to the US from Cyprus to answer accusations that he and others illegally distributed movies and television shows via the Internet.

Prosecutors claim George Bridi (50) was involved in the SPARKS release group, which allegedly caused tens of millions of dollars in losses to the industry, although he insists he is not guilty of the offences.

Bridi faces several charges including conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, wire fraud conspiracy, and other offenses, which carry sentences of up to 20 years, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

He was arrested on August 23, 2020, in Paphos – during a major international law enforcement operation targeting file-sharing platforms that infringe copyright – and was arraigned earlier this week before a US judge.

Another man – Jonatan Correa – previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and was sentenced in May to three years and three months of supervised release, with the first three months to be served in community confinement.

Sparks obtained DVDs and Blu-ray discs of unreleased content and compromised the copyright protections on the discs to reproduce and upload files to online servers.

It is believed that the piracy group, which has been under investigation since September 2016, had successfully reproduced and disseminated hundreds of movies and TV programmes prior to their retail release date, including nearly every movie released by major production studios in the US.

Members of the group obtained pre-release disks from to wholesale distributors, claiming to be retailers and promising not to sell the content prior to the official release date.

According to the US Justice Department, Bridi and Correa – with the help of another man called Umar Ahmad who remains at large – "reproduced, and aided and abetted the reproduction of, these disks by using computer software that circumvented copyright protections."

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