Crime & Justice

Irvine man due in court for pirating 'The Love Guru'

Irvine man Mischa Wynhausen will face a federal magistrate judge in Los Angeles today on charges of uploading an unauthorized pre-release copy of the Mike Myers film "The Love Guru" to a movie piracy Web site.

Wynhausen, 31, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of uploading a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, according to papers filed Dec. 30 in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

The defendant is due today in court, where a magistrate judge is expected to set a date for the guilty plea.

Prosecutors have agreed that an appropriate sentence for Wynhausen is three years of probation, a result of his cooperation in the investigation, a U.S. Attorney's Office official said.

Wynhausen is the second person charged for the theft of the screener and its posting on the Internet. Last year, Jack Yates, 28, of Porter Ranch, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for his part in the theft.

Yates was an employee of a Burbank tape duplication company hired by Paramount Pictures in May 2008 to duplicate a promotional DVD copy of the film for use by The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The film was set for release the following month, but prosecutors said the high-quality copy showed up on the Internet and was downloaded more than 85,000 times.

In initial interviews with investigators, Yates falsely pointed the finger at co-workers at the duplication company and at Paramount employees, Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik M. Silber said.

However, surveillance footage taken at Yates' workplace showed him "making an unauthorized copy of The Love Guru, then leaving the building, and going to his car in the parking lot," Silber said.

Yates then blamed his grandmother. According to court papers, he said he showed his copy of The Love Guru to his family at his grandmother's birthday party, and she took the DVD to Yates' cousin in Orange County who gave it to a friend who was a former roommate of Wynhausen.

Yates, who pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of copyright infringement, admitted he duped a copy for himself and later distributed it to others.

While Yates never intended for the movie to be pirated, the film studio and duplication firm have security precautions in place to prevent copying, "precisely because of the serious economic harm to Paramount if such a high-quality copy of the movie was released to the Internet," Silber wrote in sentencing papers.

Yates "knowingly breached those security measures and, as a result, Paramount suffered economic harm," Silber said.

At the Razzie Awards last year, "The Love Guru" was named the worst film of 2008.