US man gets 30 months in prison for ‘warez’ operation

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A Woodbury, Connecticut, man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for operating Web sites where users could download unauthorized copies of movies, music and software titles, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

David M. Fish, 26, was sentenced Monday on criminal copyright infringement and circumvention charges in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, the DOJ announced late Tuesday. Prosecutors accused Fish of operating so-called warez sites offering downloads of thousands of products protected by copyright. In addition to a 30-month prison term, Judge Ronald Whyte sentenced Fish to three years of probation following his prison term and the forfeiture of computer and other equipment used in the copyright offenses.

Fish pleaded guilty on Feb. 27, 2006, to five counts, including four counts in the Northern District of California case for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement; distribution of technology primarily designed to circumvent encryption technology protecting a right of a copyright owner and aiding and abetting; circumventing a technological measure that protects a copyright work and aiding and abetting; copyright infringement by electronic means and aiding and abetting. On the same day, Fish also pleaded guilty to one count of criminal infringement of a copyright on charges from the Southern District of Iowa, the DOJ said.

The two cases involved separate investigations, but the charges were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

From about August 2004 to July 2005, Fish served as the operator, equipment supplier and scripter for warez sites, according to the charges in the California case. Fish also defeated technology measures designed to protect DVDs that had been copyrighted, the DOJ said.

Fish participated in a separate warez site from January 2003 to April 2004, according to the Iowa charges. The warez site’s server contained about 13,000 pirated works, including movies, games, utility software and music, the DOJ said. Transfer logs showed that Fish assisted in the uploading of 131 software titles and the downloading of 373 software titles to and from the warez FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server between August 2003 and March 2004, the DOJ said.

The California case is part of Operation Copycat, an investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office targeting online warez groups. Operation Copycat has resulted in 40 convictions so far. The DOJ has been conducting Operation Copycat and related investigations for more than two years.

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