Software pirate gets record sentence

A California man is sentenced to 87 months in prison for software piracy.

A U.S. judge on Friday sentenced the owner and operator of iBackups.net to 87 months in prison, the longest sentence ever given for software piracy, according to a software trade group.

Nathan Peterson, of Antelope Acres, California, also forfeited nearly all of his assets to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, and he agreed to pay more than US$5.4 million in restitution, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) said. Peterson pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal copyright infringement in December.

At that time, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) called Backups.net "the largest for-profit software piracy site ever shut down by law enforcement." The Web site illegally sold software that would have been worth US$20 million on the retail market, the DOJ said.

Peterson will begin paying off the remaining US$5 million in damages 60 days after his release from prison, at a rate of US$200 per month.

In criminal piracy cases, the average damages resulting from pirated software are just over US$9 million, or less than half of the US$20 million caused by iBackups, SIIA said. The US$5.4 million Peterson agreed to pay in restitution is eight times the average fine of US$659,000, according to a SIIA study tracking U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation cases on software piracy reported since 2000.

Peterson's site used Google.com text ads to find customers, SIIA said. Buyers should be aware of the possibility that software being sold through text ads might not be legal, the trade group said.

Neither the prosecutor nor Peterson's attorney immediately returned calls seeking comment.

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