A 22-year-old man from California has pleaded guilty to uploading a pirated copy of the movie Deadpool to Facebook. The film was shared to the social media network, shortly after it premiered, where it was viewed 6,386,456 times. The man was indicted following an FBI investigation last year and faces a one-year prison sentence.
Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share photos, videos and other information.
While most of the content posted on the site is relatively harmless, some people use it to share things they are not supposed to. A pirated copy of Deadpool, for example.
This is what the now 22-year-old Trevon Franklin from Fresno, California, did early 2016. Just a week after the first installment of the box-office hit Deadpool premiered in theaters, he shared a pirated copy of the movie on the social network.
To be clear, Franklin wasn’t the person who originally made the copy available. He simply downloaded it from the file-sharing site Putlocker.is and then proceeded to upload it to his Facebook account, using the screen name “Tre-Von M. King.”
This post went viral with more than six million viewers ‘tuning in.’ While many people dream of this kind of attention, in this case, it meant that copyright holder Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were alerted as well.
The FBI launched a full-fledged investigation which eventually led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer.
After months of relative silence, Franklin has now signed a plea agreement with the Government where he admits to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. In return, the authorities will recommend a sentence reduction.
“Defendant admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offense to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty,” the plea agreement reads.
The legal paperwork, signed by both sides, states that Franklin downloaded the pirated copy from Putlocker, knowing full well that he didn’t have permission to do so. He then willfully shared it on Facebook where it was accessed by millions of people.
“Between February 20 and 22, 2016, while Deadpool was still in theaters and had not yet been made available for purchase by the public for home viewing, the copy of Deadpool defendant posted to his Facebook page had been viewed over 6,386,456 times,” the paperwork reads.
While a federal case over Facebook uploads is unlikely, the risk of legal trouble was pointed out to Franklin by others.
According to Facebook comments from 2016, several people warned “Tre-Von M. King” that it wasn’t wise to post copyright-infringing material on the social media platform. However, Franklin said he wasn’t worried.
It’s unclear why the US Government decided to pursue this case. Copyright infringement isn’t exactly rare on Facebook. However, it may be that the media attention and the high number of views may have prompted the authorities to set an example.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Franklin will be sentenced for a Class A misdemeanor. This can lead to a maximum prison sentence of one year, followed by probation or a supervised release, as well as a fine of $100,000. Meanwhile, he has waived his right to a trial by jury.
A copy of the plea agreement is available here (pdf).
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