US man pleads guilty to copyright theft

A Pennsylvania man pleads guilty to copyright infringement for his participation in a BitTorrent network.

An Erie, Pennsylvania, man involved in a BitTorrent peer-to-peer network has pleaded guilty to copyright infringement and faces up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

Scott R. McCausland, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and one count of criminal copyright infringement in violation of the Family Entertainment Copyright Act, the DOJ announced Tuesday. He's scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

McCausland was involved in a BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P-to-P) network previously known as Elite Torrents, the DOJ said. This guilty plea is part of the first U.S. criminal case focusing on a P-to-P network using the BitTorrent technology, the DOJ said.

McCausland's conviction is the third in a series of convictions arising from Operation D-Elite, a federal crackdown against the first providers of pirated works to the Elite Torrents network. At its prime, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000 members and allowed the illegal distribution of more than 2 million copies of movies, software, music and games, the DOJ said.

U.S. federal agents shut down the Elite Torrents network on May 25, 2005, seizing its main server and replacing its log-in Web page with the notice: "This site has been permanently shut down by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement." Within the first week, the message was viewed more than a half a million times.

The Elite Torrents P-to-P network offered a virtually unlimited content selection, including illegal copies of copyright works before their availability in retail stores or movie theaters, the DOJ said. For example, the network made available the final entry in the Star Wars series, "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," more than six hours before it was first shown in theaters. In the next 24 hours, it was downloaded from the Elite Torrents network more than 10,000 times, the DOJ said.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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