RealTime IT News

'Fastlink' Downs 50th Conspirator

Operation Fastlink, an ongoing federal government crackdown against organized online piracy groups, netted its 50th conviction today. Launched in 2004 by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the operation is one of the largest ever mounted against illegal online distribution of copyrighted material.

In pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, Christoper E. Eaves, 31, of Iowa Park, Tex., admitted he was an active member of the Apocalypse Crew, a "warez" group that acted as a first provider of copyrighted music to the Internet, the Department of Justice said.

Eaves faces up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. Sentencing is set of Aug. 10.

"Digital piracy is a serious and growing global problem, and this 50th conviction represents a milestone never before achieved in any online piracy prosecution," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in a statement.

As a pre-release music group, Apocalypse Crew acquired digital copies of songs and albums before their commercial release in the United States. According to the DoJ, the copies were often provided by music industry insiders, such as radio DJs, employees of music magazine publishers or workers at compact disc manufacturing plants.

After a warez group posts the illegal material, it is distributed in minutes to secure servers located throughout the world. Within a matter of hours, the pirated works are widely distributed through peer-to-peer networks and other public file-sharing networks.

The DOJ says the top warez groups are highly structured organizations with leadership positions that control day-to-day operations, recruit new members and manage the group's various computer archive sites. During the course of Operation Fastlink, The DOJ claims to have dismantled many of the international syndicates distributing pirated material.

"Intellectual property theft strikes at the heart of America's economy," Assistant Director James E. Finch of the FBI's Cyber Division said in a statement. "The FBI depends on our industry and law enforcement partners in the pursuit and investigation of individuals and organizations that break the law by illegally distributing copyrighted materials."

In addition to the 50 convictions, Operation FastLink has resulted in more than 120 search warrants executed in 12 countries; the confiscation of hundreds of computers and illegal online distribution hubs; and the removal of more than 50 million dollars worth of illegally copied software, games, movies, and music from illicit distribution channels.