A grand jury in Alexandria has indicted five people on charges they illegally distributed copyrighted movies and television shows through the web site NinjaVideo.
The charges the Justice Department announced today allege the founders and operators of NinjaVideo.net violated copyright laws in uploading high-quality film and TV shows.
Charging documents said the movies included “Avatar,” “2012” and “Iron Man 2." The site operated form February 2008 to June 2010, according to the indictment (.pdf).
DOJ officials said many of the movies were still in theaters when they were uploaded to the site. Users could access content for free. For $25, the site's administrators granted access to a greater selection of movies and shows, DOJ said.
Prosecutors said the members of the NinjaVideo conspiracy made more than $500,000 “while unlawfully distributing millions of dollars in infringing copies of copyrighted work.”
Undercover agents working from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Arlington used NinjaVideo during the investigation, charging documents said. Agents downloaded 44 videos.
The defendants include the alleged founder of NinjaVideo, Hana Amal Beshara, 29, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, and Matthew H. Smith, 23, of Raleigh, North Carolina. The authorities described Smith as a founder and administrator.
NinjaVideo made content available to millions of visitors each month, according to prosecutors. In one week in June 2010, the web site fulfilled more than 309,000 movie requests and 633,000 requests for television programs.
The authorities said the site generated advertising and received payments through Google AdSense.
In March 2008, Google twice sent Smith e-mails saying that its advertisements on NinjaVideo had been disabled because the site was illegally distributing copyright material, prosecutors said.
Arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 16 in front of Judge Anthony Trenga of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said none of the five defendants are in custody. Each has been issued a summons to appear in court.