US turns to Interpol for help in latest movie piracy crackdown

Avatar is among the movies Mertzanis was charged with distributing.

The US government has asked Interpol to help coordinate a fresh crackdown on foreign nationals engaged in movie piracy, adding their names to the list of the world’s most wanted criminals.

A 41-year-old Greek woman, Zoi Mertzanis, has been added to the international crime fighting organisation’s list of most wanted criminals. She is charged in the US with uploading several Hollywood blockbusters to the now-defunct streaming site NinjaVideo.

Mertzanis was one of 22 Greek nationals on Interpol’s wanted list as of press time. Charges against her countrymen and women range from murder and drug dealing to abduction of a child under 14.

Mertzanis was charged, along with Hana Beshara, Matthew Smith, Joshua Evans and Jeremy Andrew, with four counts of distributing a copyrighted work on a computer network – one each for James Cameron’s Avatar, Iron Man 2, the disaster film 2012, and the TV-to-big-screen remake The A-Team. The five were also charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and infringement by electronic means.

An Interpol spokesperson said that the “red notice” – the flag for extradition – is always added at the request of the investigating agency, in Mertzanis’s case US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

TorrentFreak, which first spotted Mertzanis’s name on the Interpol wanted list, noted that Beshara, a New Jersey resident who used the handle “Phara” online,pleaded guilty in 2011 and served 22 months for her conviction.

Mertzanis is primarily accused of having “supervised most of the European-based uploaders, including directing uploaders to locate specific infringing copyrighted content”.

The indictment is unusual in part because NinjaVideo was a small concern by comparison to other video piracy sites. The most high-profile content uploader,Kim Dotcom, himself currently awaiting an appeal of his extradition hearing in New Zealand, ran MegaUpload, a site so popular that it generated at least $175m in revenue. Some $67m of that money has been seized by the US government.

ICE did not respond to a request for further information about the reason for the indictment’s high priority. The duty officer said the department’s media relations personnel were at a retreat.

NinjaVideo is estimated to have brought the people who ran it a total of $500,000 over the two years it was active, which was split between overhead costs and employees.

Interpol’s wanted list includes four other accused copyright infringers: Lebanese national Youssef Zabad, charged in 2002 in New York; Alphaido Bah, a Guinean man living in Atlanta at the time of his 2009 indictment on charges of counterfeiting CDs and DVDs; and Balla Gayel, who appears to have been in charged in a non-US court.

[Source:- The Guardian]

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