2022-08-17 04:34:55
The Story of Gilberto Sanchez, the Man Who Leaked ‘Wolverine’ movies

– NYTimes.com

The man who stole Wolverine opened the door to his Bronx apartment
with a grunt, his thin frame hunched at the waist, an unlikely villain
with a bad back and pajama pants. “I’m a scapegoat for this,” said
Gilberto Sanchez, 47, after flopping down at his desk — the crime scene
— and dragging on a cigarette. “I’m gonna get crucified.”

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Librado Romero/The New York Times

Gilberto Sanchez, a glass installer and musician, posted a bootleg copy
of “Wolverine” on the Web and has since been charged with violation of
copyright law.

It has been nine months since the theft of the superhero, or more accurately, the superhero’s story. On March 31, someone posted a “work print” — an unfinished copy — of the film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” on a Web site. It was a full month before the movie, starring Hugh Jackman
as the famous mutant, was to open in theaters. Hollywood analysts
called the leak unprecedented and speculated whether its free, albeit
brief, availability to the public — and the unkind buzz that followed —
would dampen its box office draw. Mr. Jackman himself was said by the
studio to be “heartbroken.”

“The source of the initial leak and
any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
law,” the studio behind the movie, 20th Century Fox, said the day it
appeared online. While the studio was up in arms, Mr. Sanchez, a glass
installer and musician who knows his way around a high-speed computer,
was watching “Wolverine” in his living room with three grandchildren.
There were special effects and music missing, but no matter. “So we see
a string pulling up Hugh Jackman,” he shrugged later.

Mr.
Sanchez likes movies as much as the next guy, but detests the cost of
taking the brood to the theater. He said that he bought a bootleg copy
of “Wolverine” on the street and posted a copy on the sharing site megaupload.com for the cachet.

Eight months later, on Dec. 16, Mr. Sanchez was awakened by a knock at 6 a.m., and opened the door to F.B.I.
agents, who placed him under arrest. He was charged with violation of
copyright law, arraigned in federal court in Manhattan and allowed to
return home. He faces the possibility of prison time, maybe in
California, where his indictment originated.

The whole affair
has Mr. Sanchez deeply rattled. “I’m out on bond, waiting for them to
sentence me or give me a pat on the hand and tell me, ‘Don’t do it
again,’ ” he said. Someone from CBS called and invited him to appear
with Mr. Jackman on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

No, thanks. “I’m not going to sit next to Wolverine,” he said. “That’s a setup.”

In
an interview in his $695-a-month apartment in the Parkchester
neighborhood, Mr. Sanchez, who was in and out of city jails in the
1990s on drug charges, told his story.

It started in a
neighborhood Chinese restaurant. A man he figured to be Korean entered,
muttering “DVDs” and “digital” over and over. The sale of counterfeit
DVDs is nothing new in New York, or in this corner of the Bronx.
“Koreans set up on these sidewalks every day,” Mr. Sanchez said.

At
first, he doubted the claim of digital quality, so the peddler popped a
copy into a portable player. “I said, ‘Wow,’ ” Mr. Sanchez recalled.
Hepaid $5 and took the disc home.

After watching it with the
grandchildren, he made a copy on his computer and posted it on
megaupload, where his screen name is “SkillyGilly,” so others could
share in the fun and he could get props in the movie-loving community.
He ignored a friend’s warnings — “You’re going to get in trouble; it’s
not even out yet” — and watched as several other copies surfaced on the
site.

At 5 a.m. the next day, that friend called and told him to turn on the TV.

“Fox
News is in an uproar for the leak of ‘Wolverine,’ ” Mr. Sanchez
recalled. “They’re offering a reward.” By then, he said, his copy of
the movie had been downloaded 198 times, at no charge.

He was
scared, but did not imagine he would be blamed. “Some employee had it —
‘Hey, take this down to graphics’ — and he stopped off and showed it to
his friends,” Mr. Sanchez said. “They made more copies, more copies,
until the Koreans had a copy.”

Two weeks later, the F.B.I.
showed up, having tracked “SkillyGilly” through computer footprints.
Mr. Sanchez said he explained what had happened. “Talk to the Korean,”
he said he told them. “You keep following leads and you’ll get to a
warehouse.” But when the F.B.I. asked if he could identify the peddler,
he said no.

A few months later, agents took his computer, then
returned it, he said. Several months passed, and then the agents were
back with an arrest warrant. Wesley Hsu, an assistant United States
attorney for the Central District of California, who is supervising the
prosecution, said financial gain is not necessarily the sole motive for
so-called pirates.

“It’s some sort of Internet prestige thing,” Mr. Hsu said. “That’s sort of how the culture works.”

Mr.
Sanchez, who speaks to rehabilitation groups — “I’m Gilberto Sanchez,
I’ve been to jail, I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that” —
said he has no intention of fighting the charge. “I can’t say no,” he
said, pointing to his computer. “That’s like DNA.”

His fate is
unclear. In 2003, a New Jersey man was fined and put on probation after
uploading an unfinished print of “The Hulk” before its release. But
last year, a man who took a copy of “The Love Guru” from a
tape-duplication company was sentenced to six months.

An F.B.I. spokeswoman said the investigation into who stole the movie in the first place was continuing.

Chris
Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, declined to comment beyond
the studio’s statement last month after the arrest: “We are supportive
of the F.B.I.’s actions, and we will continue to cooperate fully with
law enforcement to identify and prosecute any individuals who steal our
movies.”

“Wolverine” went on to gross $373 million worldwide, despite mostly bad reviews,
and despite the online adventures of a glass installer from the Bronx
who, a day after his interview, was laid out flat on the floor of his
apartment, the only comfortable position for his back.

He tried
to imagine what Mr. Jackman might say to him if they ever met. He hoped
it would go something like this: “Hey, you did what you did. You didn’t
hurt us.”

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