US convicts 15th in largest music piracy case

A New York man was convicted of copyright infringement late last week in the largest criminal music piracy case in the United States.

A New York man was convicted of copyright infringement late last week in the largest criminal music piracy case in the United States.

Barry Gitarts, 25, was convicted by a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., for his role in the so-called Apocalypse Production Crew, an online piracy group that specialized in stealing and disseminating not-yet-released music.

Gitarts, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of US$250,000, as well as being mandated to make full restitution. He is slated to be sentenced on Aug. 8.

Gitarts, who used the alias Dextro, was the fifteenth member of the group to be convicted on piracy charges. All were charged in early 2004 when law enforcement agents around the world acted on search warrants aimed at several online piracy groups.

The other 14 members of the Apocalypse Production Crew who were charged have pleaded guilty.

"Our hope is that it will deter people from pirating material on the Internet," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay V. Prabhu, who prosecuted the case. "The intellectual property industry has estimated that the money [lost] to piracy and is in the billions of dollars. There are hundreds of groups like this, but these guys were a significant provider."

Gitarts, according to court records, paid for and maintained the server that the piracy group used. The server was based at a Houston hosting provider but Gitarts controlled it from his home.

APC and other online piracy groups work by stealing music, movies, software and video games before they're released for sale. Members of the group, which often have contacts inside the record companies and movie studios, then use the material to trade with other pirating groups for other stolen material. Often, different groups specialize in different mediums, such as music or software.

Prabhu said the Apocalypse Production Crew is responsible for 8,142 stolen music releases between 1997 and 2004. "Once APC released an album, within five minutes it was on servers all over the world," he added.

According to the prosecutor, Gitarts tried to install Linux software on his server in an attempt to delete his Windows applications and destroy evidence on it. Government forensic specialists, however, found fragments of his emails where he talked about music piracy, as well as evidence of transfers of pirated APC music files, he said.

After federal agents found a tape with his alias "Dextro" written on it, Gitarts admitted that he was Dextro and had downloaded pirated files. His lawyer later tried to have the admission thrown out.

To date, Operation FastLink, the large international effort to shut down piracy groups, has resulted in more than 200 search warrants executed in 15 countries, according to information from the US Department of Justice.

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