Ninjavideo founder pleads guilty to criminal copyright conspiracy
WASHINGTON - A Nevada woman pleaded guilty today for her role in founding NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. This investigation is being conducted by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).
Hana A. Beshara, 29, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. At sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 6, 2012, Beshara faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to court documents, Beshara was one of the founders of NinjaVideo.net, which operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. The NinjaVideo.net website allowed visitors to download infringing copies of hundreds of television shows and movies, including those still playing in theaters and some that had not yet been released in theaters. Website visitors could download much of the infringing content for free, but visitors who "donated" at least $25 obtained access to private forum boards that contained a wider range of infringing material.
According to court documents, NinjaVideo.net generated additional income from Internet advertising. Beshara admitted that she negotiated agreements with online advertising entities and received income from them. Beshara admitted that she and her co-conspirators collected more than $500,000 in overall proceeds during the website's two-and-a-half years of operation, with Beshara personally receiving more than $200,000. As part of her plea agreement, Beshara agreed to forfeit assets seized by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in June 2010, including cash, an investment brokerage account, two bank accounts, a Paypal account and one Internet advertising account.
Beshara, who referred to herself as "Queen Phara" and "the face and the name behind Ninja," was the day-to-day administrator of NinjaVideo.net, according to court documents. In that role, Beshara supervised the website and at times directed the release of infringing copies of specific movies and television shows, including through uploads of copyrighted works by members of the group to computer servers around the world and in the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to the statement of facts, Beshara frequently released podcasts to communicate with the millions of visitors to NinjaVideo.net. In one such podcast, which Beshara entitled "The NinjaVideo Manifesto," Beshara boasted about NinjaVideo's "zero hour releases on TV and movies" - meaning that the website made infringing content available as soon as the legitimate product was released.
On Sept. 9, 2011, Beshara and four other alleged co-conspirators were indicted on six charges related to their work with NinjaVideo.net. Co-defendant Matthew David Howard Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, and will be sentenced on Dec. 16, 2011. The remaining three defendants are scheduled for a jury trial on Feb. 6, 2012.