A federal grand jury has indicted five people on criminal copyright charges for their involvement with the website NinjaVideo.net, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
According to the indictment, which was handed down on Thursday, NinjaVideo "provided millions of website visitors with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats."
The government shut down the website in June 2010.
The Department of Justice said that NinjaVideo not only offered movies that were still in theaters but some that had not yet been released.
The website generated more than $500,000 over two-and-a-half years "and facilitated the infringement of millions of dollars of copyrighted movies, television programs and software products," the department said.
In a statement, the Motion Picture Association of America said that the indictment "marks one of the first such prosecutions of an illegal download and streaming site — indeed, one of the most notorious infringing sites on the Internet."
The MPAA said that sites like NinjaVideo "victimize not only the buyers of these products, but the more than 2.2 million hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on a healthy motion picture and television industry."
The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, led by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
The five defendants — Hana Amal Beshara, 29, of North Brunswick, N.J.; Matthew David Howard Smith, 23, of Raleigh, N.C.; Joshua David Evans, 34, of North Bend, Washington; Zoi Mertzanis, 36, of Greece; and Jeremy Lynn Andrew, 33, of Eugene Oregon — are scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 16 in federal court in Virginia.