RealTime IT News

Another Sith Pirate Meets Force of Law

Another member of the Elite Torrents file-swapping outfit pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of criminal copyright infringement.

Before federal agents raided the copyright theft ring in May of last year, the Elite Torrents used peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharers deploying BitTorrent technology to illegally distribute 2.1 million copyrighted works across 18,000 movie, music and software titles.

Scott R. McCausland, 24, of Erie, Pa., will face sentencing Dec. 12 on one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and one count of criminal copyright infringement in violation of the Family Entertainment Copyright Act, according to federal authorities.

The maximum sentence is five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.

McCausland's conviction is the third obtained in the first criminal enforcement action against copyright infringement on a P2P network using BitTorrent technology.

BitTorrent is an application used for moving large files, such as movies, over a P2P network. The Department of Justice (DoJ) is not targeting the technology, but rather the ringleaders of the private networks that frequently trade in copyrighted works.

Hollywood is pursuing a similar strategy with civil actions targeting BitTorrent server operators.

According to the DoJ, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000 members. The ring offered to its members a "virtually unlimited" content selection, often before the material was commercially available in retail stores or movie theaters.

McCausland, for example, supplied the Elite Torrents network with the final entry in the Star War trilogy, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, more than six hours before it was released to theaters.

Over the next 24 hours, the illegal copy of the movie was downloaded more than 10,000 times from the Elite Torrents network.

"This groundbreaking case demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice to prosecute individuals who use new technologies to undermine the copyright laws," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in a statement.

"It also serves as an example to those who believe that there is anonymity in cyberspace."

In the May 2005 raid, federal agents seized the Elite Torrents' main server and replaced its log-in with the notice, "This Site Has Been Permanently Shut Down by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)."

Within the first week alone, this message was viewed over half a million times.