RealTime IT News

Man Pays For Piracy With Jail Time

The former operator of a "massive for-profit" pirated software Web site was sentenced to six years in prison today and ordered to pay restitution of $4.1 million.

Danny Ferrer, 37, of Lakeland, Fla., pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement for selling pirated software.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), the site sold almost $2.5 million worth of deeply discounted copyrighted software, including titles from Adobe, Autodesk and Macromedia.

The DoJ said Ferrer's site sold almost $2.5 million worth of copyrighted software. The DoJ claims the sales resulted in losses of nearly $20 million to the owners of the underlying copyrighted products.

Ferrer faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The plea drew national attention over the scope of the revenue raised by Ferrer's operation. He was forced to forfeit three airplanes, six cars, a flight simulator, a high-performance boat and an ambulance.

The cars included a 1992 Lamborghini, a 2005 Hummer, a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette, two 2005 Corvettes and a 2005 Lincoln Navigator.

"We are very pleased with the sentence imposed today -- one of the longest ever imposed for software piracy -- and trust that it sends a strong message to those who pilfer the intellectual property of others," U.S. Attorney Rosenberg said in a statement.

"Modern-day pirates ought to expect modern-day penalties."

The software titles purchased on Ferrer's site were reproduced on CDs and distributed through the mail. The operation included a serial number that allowed the purchaser to activate and use the product.

"Danny Ferrer obtained millions of dollars worth of luxury items by stealing and pirating the works of others," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in the DoJ statement.

"But now, the cars and planes and boats he paid for with the proceeds of his crime are being taken by the government, and he will spend six years in jail."

Ferrer's operation began to unravel after an undercover FBI agent made a number of purchases from the site. On Oct. 25 of last year, the FBI shut down the site.

"Ferrer's sale of pirated software greatly harmed the legitimate market and consumers, contributing to the billions of dollars the software industry loses to piracy each year," John Wolfe, director of Internet Enforcement for the Business Software Alliance, said in a statement.

"We encourage consumers to be aware of the risks involved with buying third-party software on the Internet and hope that the increased attention to this problem by law enforcement agencies will send the message that software piracy is a crime that can result in very serious consequences."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also rushed to praise Ferrer's sentencing.

"These convictions underscore the Justice Department's commitment to punishing those who steal intellectual property or counterfeit products," David Hirschmann, the chamber's senior vice president, said in a statement.

"It also sends a strong signal to pirates and counterfeiters that the government, with substantial support from the business community, will hunt you down and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

An IDG study issued in May claims that 21 percent of software in the United States is unlicensed. In 2005, the U.S. lost $6.9 billion as a result of software piracy, according to the BSA.