Movie piracy is a serious issue for studios. As such, they tend to prosecute offenders quite vigorously. The sentence just handed down to a man who leaked The Revenant online seems somehow both lenient and overly vicious. William Kyle Moriarty has pled guilty to leaking a pair of the 20th Century Fox films, and while he avoided jail time, he's been fined over $1 million.
The Hollywood Reporter announced the sentence with the headline "The Revenant Pirate Avoids Prison, Fined $1M." It's the sort of statement that would send you through numerous emotions if you were the one in court. We can imagine that William Moriarty felt relief at knowing that he would not go to jail, but the $1 million fine is nothing to sneeze at. You see, Moriarty was an employee at 20th Century Fox when he stole screeners and leaked both The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie online. Needless to say, he no longer works there, but that's part of the problem. Moriarty and his family are living off of his unemployment insurance, which will likely make him paying a $1.12 million fine more than a little difficult.
Having said that, prosecutors were asking for a year in jail as punishment, so Moriarty could have had a much worse day at his sentencing hearing than he did. Instead, he will receive eight months of house arrest, followed by two years of probation.
William Kyle Moriarty's leak of The Revenant credited with over one million illegal downloads of that film alone. It was one of the higher profile movies to get leaked last fall in the lead-up to awards season. Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight was another. Those responsible for pirating that one even went so far as to apologize to the director, sort of.
Exactly how much piracy costs movie studios is a much-debated figure. There's some question about whether or not those that pirate films would ever have paid money to see them in the first place. However, it's clear that the studios, and the courts, are going to continue to take such things seriously. It's unlikely that this decision will actually reduce movie piracy, but we'll have to wait and see. One million dollars is a lot of cash. If that's what getting caught costs, it may result in some deciding against taking the risk.
As we head into awards season yet again it will be interesting to see if the leaks continue with the same frequency that they did last year, or if there is any significant reduction. Based on comments from the U.S. Attorney, it would seem that the fact that Moriarty worked for the studio was at least part of the reason that such harsh punishment was requested. The rest of us might not be subject to requests for jail time, but either way, it's clear that piracy is getting to be an expensive activity.