Sunday, March 4, 2007

Software Piracy Ringleader Extradited From Australia

In one of the first everextraditions for an intellectual property offense, the leader of one of the oldest and most renowned Internet software piracy groups was arraigned today in U.S. District Court, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher ofthe Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today.

Hew Raymond Griffiths, 44, a British national living in Bateau Bay,Australia, appeared today in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., before Magistrate Judge Barry R. Poretz. The defendant was extradited from Australia and is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one count of criminal copyright infringement. Ifconvicted on both counts, Griffiths could receive a maximum sentence of 10y ears in prison and a $500,000 fine. Prior to his arrival in the United States, he had spent nearly three years incarcerated at a detention centerin Australia while fighting his extradition in Australian court.

The indictment, which was returned in March 2003, charges Griffithswith violating the criminal copyright laws of the United States as the leader of an organized criminal group known as DrinkOrDie, which had areputation as one of the oldest security-conscious piracy groups on the Internet. Prior to its dismantling, DrinkOrDie was estimated to have caused the illegal reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth ofpirated software, movies, games and music.

According to the indictment, Griffiths oversaw all the illegal operations of DrinkOrDie which specialized in cracking software and distributing the cracked versions over the Internet. Once cracked, thesesoftware versions could be copied and used without limitation. Members stockpiled the illegal software on huge Internet computer storage sites that were filled with tens of thousands of individual software, game, movie and music titles worth millions of dollars. The group used encryption and an array of other sophisticated technological security measures to hide their activities from law enforcement.

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