It wasn't just piracy that was the issue: This was a bad-buzz generating precedent that 20th Century Fox feared would kill the movie's box office, especially since the copy hundreds were watching on the Internet had unfinished special effects and visible wires holding up its star, Hugh Jackman. (Never mind that the movie went on to earn $373 million worldwide.) img hspace="4" border="1" align="right" vspace="4" src="http://www.blogcdn.com/blog.moviefone.com/media/2010/01/gilberto-sanchez-200a011410-fp.jpg" id="vimage_2622255" alt="Gilberto Sanchez" />"I'm a scapegoat for this," Gilberto Sanchez told the New York Times. "I'm gonna get crucified." Sanchez's crime? Uploading a leaked "work print" copy of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' online, a full month before the movie opened.
It wasn't just piracy that was the issue: This was a bad-buzz generating precedent that 20th Century Fox feared would kill the movie's box office, especially since the copy hundreds were watching on the Internet had unfinished special effects and visible wires holding up its star, Hugh Jackman. (Never mind that the movie went on to earn $373 million worldwide.)
Sanchez's story is a sympathetic one. He's not some teenager bootlegging for profit, but a 47-year-old guy who bought a bootleg DVD of the movie from a neighborhood vendor. After watching the movie in the living room of his $695-per-month Bronx apartment with his three grandchildren, he made the fateful decision to share the movie with his friends. He uploaded it to megaupload.com under his screen name of "SkillyGilly," where it was downloaded nearly 200 times in less than 24 hours.
At 5 AM the next day, a friend called and told him to turn on the TV. The leak was all over the news and the outraged studio was offering a reward. Sanchez was scared, but sure that the employee who had made the illegal work print in the first place, or those peddling the bootleg DVDs, would be held responsible.
But eight months later, it was his door the FBI came knocking on. He was arraigned in federal court in Manhattan and is now out on bond, awaiting sentencing. He may have to serve jail time and, since the indictment originated in Hollywood, he might have to do it in California, according to the Times.
"Talk to the Korean," -- the one who sold him the DVD -- he told the FBI "You keep following leads and you'll get to a warehouse." But since he couldn't ID the vendor, there were no leads to follow, although the Times reports that the investigation into the original leak is ongoing.
The prosecution doesn't care that Sanchez didn't gain financially, the attorney supervising the case, Wesley Hsu, tells the Times, "It's some sort of Internet prestige thing. That's sort of how the culture works."
Sanchez doesn't plan to fight the charges: How could he? He might simply be fined and put on probation, as in the nearly identical case of someone who uploaded a work print of 'The Hulk' -- featuring a blobby and unimpressive green mutant -- prior to its release. Or he might face jail time, like the man who stole a copy of 'The Love Guru' -- a bomb that people certainly weren't going to pay to see -- and received six months in jail.
In a statement released last month, Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, said only: "We are supportive of the FBI's actions, and we will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement to identify and prosecute any individuals who steal our movies."
How else to deter an entire generation for whom watching the latest movies is more a matter of finding the right download site than camping out for tickets? It would be impossible to prosecute everyone who's ever illegally downloaded a movie, TV show or song, but if the Feds a can make an example of Sanchez, maybe a few people will be scared away from sharing movies online. Until at least after the movie hits theaters, that is.