Member of online piracy group faces prison term

A New York man is convicted for his part in an online music piracy group.

A member of an online piracy group has been convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and faces up to five years in prison, the US Department of Justice said.

Barry Gitarts, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, was convicted Thursday in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to up to five years in prison, Gitarts could face a fine of US$250,000, three years of probation and a requirement that he make full restitution, the DOJ said.

Gitarts was a key member of the Internet music piracy group Apocalypse Production Crew (APC) from at least June 2003 through April 2004, the DOJ said. Gitarts paid for and administered a computer server located in Texas that APC group members used to upload and download hundreds of thousands of copies of pirated music, movies, software and video games, the agency said.

Gitarts also received payment from the leader of APC, the DOJ said.

APC was a "first-provider" or "release group" of unauthorized materials online, the agency said. Release groups are the original sources for a majority of the pirated works downloaded through the Internet, the DOJ said.

"Music piracy is stealing and, unless you want to end up in a federal prison, don't do it," Chuck Rosenberg, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) praised federal authorities for bringing the case to trial. The Gitarts case was the first time a federal prosecution of an online criminal copyright infringement case primarily featuring music has gone to trial, the RIAA said.

"The crimes committed here -- as well as the harm to the music community -- are severe, and so are the consequences," Brad Buckles, the RIAA's executive vice president for antipiracy, said in a statement. "Groups like APC that specialize in leaking pre-release music are at the top of the piracy pyramid, and the efforts of federal law enforcement have dealt a real blow to these kinds of operations."

The Gitarts case is part of an ongoing federal investigation into the organized piracy groups responsible for the distribution of movies, software, games and music on the Internet. There have been 15 criminal convictions of APC members and 56 total convictions in Operation FastLink, an international investigation into Internet piracy.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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