Man pleads guilty for role in international movie pirating scheme

Published 10:28 pm Saturday, October 27, 2007

An investigation that began with the purchase of bogus DVDs at the Harrison County Flea Market in 2003 concluded recently with the guilty plea of a man involved in an international ring of movie pirates.

Thomas Irving Davis Jr. will be sentenced Jan. 22 in U.S. District Court in Gulfport for his role in a conspiracy that stretched from the Gulf Coast to China, a news release from U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said.

The investigation involved both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Chinese authorities. It was both the first joint intellectual property rights investigation conducted by the two countries and the first full undercover investigation.

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“This conviction is a significant milestone in the film industry’s global efforts to fight film theft and is a model of interagency and international cooperation to stem the tide of rampant copyright infringement around the globe,” Dan Glickman, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in the news release.

Six people, including Davis’ alleged coconspirator, Randolph Hobson Guthrie III, were arrested in China in 2004. Authorities there seized more than 210,000 counterfeit DVDs and destroyed three warehouses being used to house bogus movies.

Davis said during his plea hearing that he participated by establishing accounts on the Internet to sell the counterfeit movies and that he traveled throughout Florida selling the movies.

During the investigation, authorities said, he sold more than $50,000 in pirated movies operating out of an office in Palm Beach, Fla.

It was not clear from the news release when Davis pleaded guilty or what happened to those arrested in China. It was also unclear what and how many charges Davis pleaded guilty to. Lampton was not available for comment late Thursday.

The release said Davis admitted to his role in a conspiracy that involved infringing copyright for commercial advantage and private financial gain, trafficking in goods and using counterfeit marks on those goods, and fraudulently and knowingly importing unauthorized reproductions.

“This investigation and prosecution demonstrates what cooperation between law enforcement agencies in the United States and China can achieve in order to counter the enormous adverse economic consequences to the United States of intellectual property drain in China and around the globe,” Lampton said.