Sunday, December 30, 2007

Twenty-Six Arrest Orders Issued for Copyright Violations

In May 2007, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, working in conjunction with U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the Puerto Rico Bureau of Special Investigations, and officials of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), launched the first phase of an operation dubbed "Operation Digital Pirates." The first phase of the operation led to the seizure of more than 53,000 counterfeit music CDs and DVDs. The operation was launched in several flea markets throughout the island of Puerto Rico. The seizure was part of an ICE initiative into the identification of intellectual property rights (IPR) violators.

As part of ICE's "Operation Digital Pirates," ICE agents teamed up with other federal and local law enforcement officers and arrested 21 individuals indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2007 for violations to federal intellectual property rights statutes. The arrests took place in the municipalities of Bayamon, Vega Baja, Morovis, Mayaguez, Hatillo, Quebradillas, Ponce, Guayanilla and Carolina, Puerto Rico.

According to the indictment, the defendants infringed copyright laws by reproducing and distributing works such as music CDs and DVDs, for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.

Between fiscal years 2002 and 2006, ICE agents arrested more than 700 individuals for IPR violations and dismantled several large scale criminal organizations that distributed counterfeit merchandise to nations around the globe. At the same time, ICE investigations into these networks resulted in 449 criminal indictments and 425 convictions. Together, ICE and CBP seized more than $750 million worth of counterfeit goods from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2006.

The criminal infringement of a copyright has a penalty up to five years imprisonment if it is a first offense, and ten years imprisonment if the offense is a second or subsequent offense, a fine up to $250,000, and a supervised release term. Trafficking in counterfeit labels affixed to the illegal copies of the motion picture DVDs or music CDs has a penalty of up to five years imprisonment.

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