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February 7, 2022Washington, DC, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

Motion Picture Association, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment and IPR Center strengthen public-private partnership to protect film and TV content

Key illegal piracy operator, SPARKS Group’s George Bridi is sentenced, marking successful result in “Operation Intangibles”

WASHINGTON – The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) today announced the expansion of their current partnership with The Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). By embedding MPA and ACE personnel to the team at the IPR Center in Washington D.C. and other resources to the expanded framework, the partnering organizations are able to further expand their collective content protection efforts.

The joint announcement comes at a pivotal moment in the global anti-piracy fight as sentencing was also announced today for George Bridi, a leader of the illegal piracy operation, the SPARKS Group. For over 10 years, the SPARKS Group illegally distributed movies and television shows prior to their retail release dates, violating copyright protections and causing substantial economic harm to the film and television industry. Bridi pled guilty in November 2021 to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 22 months in prison.

“Global digital piracy is not a victimless crime. It is a significant threat to our economic security, and we take it seriously,” said Steve Francis, Acting Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “With every investigation, arrest, and subsequent criminal conviction, we are one step closer to creating a safer environment for content creators. These additional resources will enable the IPR Center to crack down on illegal activity around the world involving the unauthorized distribution of pirated digital content.”

The Bridi sentencing is a significant milestone for the MPA, ACE and the IPR Center, as it marks a successful outcome stemming from “Operation Intangibles,” launched in 2019 by the IPR Center to target pirated materials across the digital ecosystem. The operation, which is supported by the MPA-IPR Center partnership, combats transnational copyright infringements and digital piracy activities impacting the creative content industries and the U.S. economy.

The IPR Center, in conjunction with HSI, leveraged their vast authorities and international law enforcement partnerships to intercept and dismantle this criminal organization’s cyber piracy network and arrest those allegedly responsible. With these actions, the servers that were the pipeline for wholesale theft of intellectual property are now out of service.

The updated public - private partnership expands the MPA and ACE’s ability to assist government and law enforcement authorities in their investigations of illegal acts involving large scale copyright infringement. By embedding MPA personnel at the IPR Center, HSI field agents will now have a direct line to experts from both the MPA and ACE who can assist with criminal digital piracy cases and provide digital piracy and technical trainings to the HSI agents.

“These type of cooperative partnerships between creative industries and law enforcement agencies are essential to our fight against digital piracy, and our relationship with the IPR Center has already proven the strength of this collaborative approach,” said Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel for the MPA. “We look forward to continued success in our collective efforts to reduce piracy around the world.”

The initial agreement, signed in September 2020, enabled the organizations to collaborate on digital piracy and other relevant intellectual property investigations conducted by HSI, the main investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

“Through our partnership with the IPR Center, we have dismantled criminal online enterprises that operate as though they are untouchable,” added Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the MPA. “With the additional resources and the broader scope of the relationship, we’re confident law enforcement efforts will continue to yield tangible results that support and protect the creative economy.”

Temple said the sentencing today of George Bridi is “good news for the global creative ecosystem and underscores the strong value of the close partnership that the MPA and ACE have with law enforcement.”

“We applaud the tenacity of our partners at the IPR Center and SDNY and their coordinated effort to dismantle one of the world’s largest piracy enterprises,” Temple added. “The MPA and ACE remain committed to protecting creative work produced by the global film, television and streaming industry and look forward to continued success in our collective efforts to reduce piracy around the world.”


About The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center

The IPR Center brings together public and private partners, in a task force setting utilizing a three-pronged approach (interdiction, investigation, and community outreach), to coordinate a whole-of-government and industry response to combat intellectual property theft and enforce U.S. international trade laws. Click here to report IP theft.

About The Motion Picture Association

The Motion Picture Association serves as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries from its offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Its members are Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Netflix Studios, LLC; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Universal City Studios LLC; and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

About The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE)

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is the world’s leading coalition dedicated to protecting the dynamic legal market and reducing digital piracy. Driven by a comprehensive approach to addressing piracy through criminal referrals, civil litigation and cease-and-desist operations, ACE has achieved many successful global enforcement actions against illegal streaming services and sources of unauthorized content and their operators. Drawing upon the collective expertise and resources of all members and reinforced by the content protection operations of the Motion Picture Association, ACE protects the creativity and innovation that drive the global growth of core copyright and entertainment industries. The current governing board members for ACE are: Amazon, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix Studios, LLC, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom CBS, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Warner Bros. Charles Rivkin is Chairman of ACE and the Motion Picture Association. For more information, please visit www.alliance4creativity.com.

Updated: 02/09/2022