Alleged software pirate turns himself over to police

31-year-old man turns himself in to the police one week after police raid on his home

A 31-year-old Pennsylvania man who allegedly ran a home-based online business selling pirated copies of software, music and movies was arrested Friday following an undercover operation by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) trade groups.

Robert Uss, of Reinholds, Lancaster County, turned himself over to police Friday, one week after East Cocalico Township police obtained a search warrant for his parent's home and recovered thousands of CDs and DVDs of illegally copied software, games, movies and music, said Detective Kerry Sweigart.

The raid on Uss' house came after MPAA and BSA investigators allegedly purchased pirated materials from the suspect over the last few months, between last November and this month. The investigators then contacted local police about the purchases, Sweigart said.

"With that information, we got a search warrant" and recovered about 10,000 pirated discs, he said.

Uss was charged with trademark counterfeiting and copying recorded devices under Pennsylvania laws, Sweigart said. He was arraigned before District Justice Nancy Hamill and taken to Lancaster County Prison where he is being held in lieu of US$10,000 bail.

Uss faces up to seven years in prison and up to US$15,000 in fines if convicted on the charges.

A man at the Uss home who identified himself by telephone as Uss' father, Robert, had no comment on his son's arrest.

Elizabeth Kaltman, communications director at MPAA, said Uss first became known to MPAA investigators in late 2005, when he failed to appear in court concerning allegations of pirated movies. A default judgment of US$14,000 was entered against Uss in that case, which was filed by movie company 20th Century Fox Film, she said.

"My understanding is that he's been running this operation for some time," Kaltman said. "Our goal is to stop piracy at its source" to protect MPAA members in the entertainment industry. "It's a fairly significant source of piracy."

Jenny Blank, director of enforcement at the Washington-based BSA, said the software that Uss allegedly copied and sold was originally produced by a wide range of vendors, including Adobe Systems, Apple, Autodesk, McAfee, Microsoft and Symantec. No estimated value of the pirated software has been released, she said.

Uss operated from his basement using a single computer and two disk duplicators, according to the two trade groups.

BSA began investigating Uss' operation last June, Blank said, after the trade group learned of his alleged activities through a complaint and other investigative means used by the group. "He's not like some guy in a warehouse with a couple of employees who's turning these things out around the clock," she said, "but it shows how a home operator can do a lot of damage. This guy was selling CDs like they were hot cakes.

"You don't have to have a warehouse to hurt the industry," Blank said. While police recovered some 10,000 discs from the Uss home during the raid, "God knows how many he sold to people," she said.

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Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld
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