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Seven Plead Guilty To Pirating Star Wars Film

What started with a simple loan of the movie between friends has ended in the possibility of one-year prison sentences for seven Los Angeles Star Wars fans.
Seven accused movie pirates who pleaded guilty to copying and distributing Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith face up to one year in prison when they are sentenced on April 12, the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles said Wednesday.

An eighth person, Marc Hoaglin, upload the movie onto Bittorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing site, where it debuted the night prior to its May 2005 release.

Hoaglin, who worked at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., pleaded guilty in December to one felony count of uploading a pre-release copyrighted work onto the Internet. He faces up to three years in federal custody. Sentencing is on March 6.

The convictions mark an ongoing struggle by Hollywood studios to stem the annual loss of billion of dollars to movie pirates.

By 2007, Internet users will access, download and share information equivalent to the content of the entire Library of Congress more than 64,000 times daily, according to IDC Research. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that authorities seized more than 76 million DVDs in the past year.

The events that led to the movie's early release, prosecutors said, started with a surreptitious transaction between friends. Albert Valente, an employee of a post-production facility in Los Angeles took a copy of Star Wars and loaned it to a friend.

Jessie Lumada, Valente's friend, brought the movie to the cable company where he worked and allowed co-workers to copy the movie onto the company's internal network and burn copies onto DVDs, prosecutors said.

Michael Fousse uploaded the movie onto the cable company's internal network. Dwight Wayne Sityar burned several copies of the movie then stored it on the network. Stephani Gima accessed the pirated film and gave it to Joel De Sagun Dimaano.

Valente, Jessie Lumada, Ramon G. Valdez, Fousse, Sityar and Gima pled guilty to one count of either distributing or copying the Star Wars film and face up to one year in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 12.