The leader of an infamous software piracy ring was sentenced Friday on one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Hew Raymond Griffiths was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
According to a press release from the United States Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg for the Eastern District of Virginia announced the sentence in a press conference on Friday.
Griffiths was extradited from an Australian prison, where he had resided for the previous three years while fighting the extradition, to the United States in February of 2007.
According to the United States Justice Department, Assistant Attorney General Fisher had this to say regarding Griffiths sentence: “From his home in Australia, Griffiths became one of the most notorious leaders of the underground Internet piracy community by orchestrating the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyrighted material. The Justice Department is committed to protecting intellectual property rights, and will pursue those who commit such crimes beyond the borders of the United States where necessary.”
Rosenberg reportedly added: “Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard – theft is theft. And, for those inclined to steal Intellectual Property here, or from half-way around the world, they are on notice that we can and will reach them.”, according to the United States Justice Department.
An on-line news outlet once published an interview with Griffith’s in which he bragged that he would never be caught.
Griffith’s organized criminal group was named “Drink or Die”. The group was started in Russia in the early 90’s and achieved massive growth throughout the remainder of the 90’s. The group distributed cracked versions of software on the Internet. In addition to targeting big name software producers such as Microsoft and Adobe, the group also targeted smaller developers. According to the United States Justice Department those smaller developers suffered greatly from the piracy because their survival depended on sales of one to two items.
The group’s activities were put to a stop by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an operation that spanned six countries and resulted in 30 members of the group being convicted of felonies, according to the United States Justice Department. Authorities maintain that the group was responsible for distributing over $50 million dollars worth of pirated software. The group previously stored these files on servers that were encrypted to hide their presence from authorities.
The United States Justice Department