Richard Humphrey once operated two popular websites that illegally distributed copyrighted movies, computer games and software online. He was caught by the FBI by and sentenced in 2010 to 29 months in prison for copyright infringement.
But now that he is back on the streets, Humphrey is alleging that institutions like the one where he served his time are participating in the same behavior that landed him in prison. Humphrey claims that he was shown pirated versions of several films in Ohio's Lorain Correctional Institution, where he was serving time this year after violating probation for an unrelated offense.
“If people are going to prison for copyright infringement, prison mind you, where they are supposed to be paying their debt to society and rehabilitate for their crimes, how is it that the prison itself is showing pirated movies?” Humphrey told Torrent Freak. “[People are] being punished and sent to prison for rehabilitation when it’s clear that the system isn’t able to restrain itself from the same type of activity.”
He says that he has sent several “kites” — prison slang for a letter — to Lorain’s warden about the issue. You can read one of the letters below.
“Sir, thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Your concerns have been addressed in the past but it appears this activity is still taking place,” Warden Kimberly Clipper appears to respond on the letter. “This matter will continue to be addressed until rectified.”
The letter is stamped April 9.
After his release last week, Humphrey said he personally called Clipper to explain why he takes the issue to heart.
“Once again, this matter is ongoing, and it’s something I am going to be on the lookout for because of what you shared with me, and I appreciate that,” Clipper responded, noting that she could not divulge more information due to an ongoing investigation on the matter.
Humphrey alleges that he saw similar displays of pirated material play out in other facilities that he spent time in as well.
However, he does not blame the copyright infringers for doing what they are doing. Rather, he believes that films should be released on various platforms from the outset, thereby taking the potential upper hand away from piraters.
Warner Bros. recently became the first major studio in the U.S. to experiment with this approach. It conducted a simultaneous release of the DVD and theatrical versions of Veronica Mars this March. Usually, there is an industry standard 90-day window separating theatrical and DVD releases, except in the case of experimental or small-profile films. Veronica Mars was considered a special case since it was funded through Kickstarter, and since the studio actually rented out 260 AMC theaters where it played, as opposed to leasing reels to the theaters.
Some filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan, have notably said that making such a practice the norm would destroy the movie-going experience and would spell doom to countless theaters nationwide.
The Lorain Correctional Institution did not immediately responded to a request for comment from Fusion.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.