US piracy crackdown nets 50th conviction

A DOJ crackdown on online piracy nets its 50th felony conviction.

A U.S. Department of Justice crackdown on online piracy has recorded its 50th felony conviction, the agency announced.

Christopher E. Eaves, 31, of Iowa Park, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement for his involvement in the Apocalypse Crew, an online organization offering downloads before music was released to the public, the DOJ said. Eaves' plea, part of the DOJ's Operation FastLink, came Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Eaves is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 10. He faces up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine.

The 50th conviction "represents a milestone never before achieved in any online piracy prosecution," Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general in the DOJ's criminal division, said in a statement.

Operation FastLink is an ongoing DOJ crackdown against the organized piracy groups responsible for most of the initial illegal distribution of copyright movies, software, games and music on the Internet. Operation FastLink has resulted in more than 120 search warrants executed in 12 countries; the confiscation of hundreds of computers and illegal online distribution hubs; and the removal of more than $US50 million dollars worth of software, games, movies and music from illegal distribution channels.

Eaves acknowledged that he was a leading member in the illegal software, game, movie and music trade online, commonly referred to as the "warez" scene, the DOJ said. Eaves was an active member of the Apocalypse Crew, a group that acted as a first provider of copyright music to the Internet by serving as the original source for many of the pirated works distributed and downloaded online, the DOJ said.

Apocalypse Crew sought to acquire digital copies of songs and albums before their commercial release in the U.S., the DOJ said. The supply of such pre-release music was often provided by music industry insiders, such as radio announcers, employees of music magazine publishers or workers at compact disc manufacturing plants.

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