The founder of NinjaVideo.net, a website that let visitors download copyright-protected movies and TV shows illegally, was sentenced last week to a 14-month prison sentence for criminal copyright conspiracy, the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.
Matthew David Howard Smith, 24, of Raleigh, NC, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria, to the prison term for his role in founding NinjaVideo.net. Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga also ordered Smith to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term, to pay $172,387 and to forfeit to the United States five financial accounts and computer equipment involved in the crimes.
Smith was one of the founders of the website, which operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010.
The Justice Department said NinjaVideo.net gave millions of website visitors the ability to illegally download high-quality copies of copyright-protected movies and TV shows. Some movies on the website were still playing in theaters, and others had not yet been released.
Court documents revealed Smith designed parts of the site, including an applet required to view on NinjaVideo.net. According to the Justice Department, Smith admitted to making agreements with online advertising entities to generate income for the website.
Smith and his accomplices collected more than $500,000 during the two and a half years the site operated. Smith’s portion of the illegal proceeds was $172,387.
Smith and four others were indicted in September 2011. Hana Amal Beshara was sentenced Jan. 6 to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay nearly $210,000 for her role as another co-founder of the site. Two additional co-defendants are awaiting sentencing.
An arrest warrant remains outstanding for the fourth indicted co-defendant, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece. Another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net who was charged separately has also pleaded guilty.